The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act allows for the termination of maintenance when the spouse receiving maintenance is deemed to be “cohabitating” with another spouse. The problem in cohabitation cases is being able to prove in a court of law that your spouse is in fact cohabitating with someone.
In In re Marriage of Miller, 2015 IL App (2d) 140530, the husband filed a motion to terminate the wife’s maintenance on the basis that the wife was cohabitating with another man. At trial, the wife introduced Facebook posts in which her boyfriend wrote “I’m Happy As A Lark In My New Relationship!”, among other posts.
The wife argued that the Facebook posts were hearsay and should be barred from evidence. The husband, on the other hand, argued that it was not using the Facebook posts to prove the truth of the matter asserted–that is, that the wife was in fact cohabitating with the husband–but that there was a pattern in which the wife flaunted her relationship to others.
The trial correct allowed the Facebook posts in and terminated evidence, and the wife appealed. On appeal, the Court found that the Facebook posts were not hearsay as they were being used for the purpose of demonstrating the wife’s intent in posting said posts. However, the Court reversed the trial court’s decision in terminating maintenance, holding that there was not enough prove to show that the wife was in fact cohabitating with another man.
This decision shows the complexity in introducing evidence from social media. In an era where everything is online, it is often hard to authenticate and lay a foundation for online activity in order to introduce said statements into evidence in a court of law. The situation is even harder when the statement comes from someone else and is posted on your Facebook wall or other social media.
This case shows that the standard rules of evidence still apply, and that while you may not be able to bring some statements in to prove that something did occur, as in this case, you may be able to bring it in for another non-hearsay purpose.