A husband and father of three children decided that the time had come to get a divorce. His wife has become increasingly hostile and tries to poison his children against him. She has even attempted to fake a domestic violence situation. One of the husband's best friends from high school is friends with the wife on Facebook. The wife had blocked her husband long ago, but the friend took a screenshot of the wife out with friends at a high-end restaurant when she accused the husband of abusing her. Now he is wondering whether he can use this screenshotted evidence of a social media post in his divorce case.
Authenticating Social Media Posts
Whenever an electronic record, such as a message or screenshot from social media, is proposed as evidence in an Illinois court, it must be authenticated. The goal of authentication is to ensure that an exhibit of evidence is what the petitioner says it is. In Illinois, authentication has been called a “smell test” of genuineness to ensure against forgery or fraud before the court will consider the electronic evidence.
In most cases, a screenshot of a messenger post on its own is not enough to get the screenshot admitted as evidence in Illinois. Usually, the person seeking to admit the evidence will need to provide the court with legitimate examples that can help authenticate the social media post or electronic document. In this case, the husband may call his wife to the stand. His attorney could ask her, “did you write this Facebook post and post it.” If she says, “yes,” the post could be submitted as evidence.
If she denies writing the message, she is lying under oath. The husband would need to find someone else who saw her write the message or show that there's no way anyone else could have written it via some inside knowledge contained within the message or show that the tenor of the post was in accord with the way the poster writes his or her posts. If doing so is impossible, the person wanting to submit the evidence may need to subpoena the business records of the social media company to authenticate the message properly.
When it comes to social media photos and videos, they will usually be admitted into evidence if they are authenticated and there is not any sound or writing on them. Sometimes it is easier to authenticate a photo or video than a written post. Social media evidence can get tricky when the person submitting the evidence is not cooperating as a witness. If you have questions about what types of evidence will be admissible in your divorce case, we recommend reaching out to an experienced attorney. Your family law attorney will know what social media evidence may or may not be helpful in your unique case.
Contact a Chicago Divorce Lawyer
If you need representation for a divorce or child support matter in Cook County, Glasgow & Olsson is here to help. When you need an attorney, experience matters. Contact us today to learn how our experience can get you the results you deserve.