Thursday, July 9, 2009

Facebook Problems and Family Law

Arizona Family Law Blog and South Carolina Family Law Blog have both picked up on the problems of Facebook. I saw it but took my hiatus without publishing, so about time I shared it.The articles are Facebook and Divorces and Facebook No-No's for Divorcing Couples, respectively. I am cribbing the following from South Carolina Family Law Blog:

  1. Showing Off :: Pictures or discussions of new purchases or vacations are fun, but they might color the court's view of your finances and affect your settlement.
  2. Letting It All Hang Out :: If you're in a custody battle, your ex's lawyers would love to present you as the nonnurturing type. Delete all the crazy party photos.
  3. Getting Tagged :: It's not just your page you have to worry about. Make sure your friends' photos of you can't be used against you either.
  4. Venting :: Don't talk smack about the lawyers, the judge and especially your spouse — on your page or anybody else's. (You think your kids never use a computer?)
  5. Cutting Off Everyone at Once :: Don't "defriend" in-laws or your ex's friends right away. People need time to adjust. Unless it's really high-conflict. Then go for it.
I want to say that this ought to apply to more than Facebook. For some reason (our local reticence to keep up with trends), MySpace turns up in my cases more than Facebook. Be wary of what you do you online. It might be useful reading a post I wrote on my business law blog, Tweeting Employees?, for some other points. Last, understand the difference between a private and public page (not that that will make much difference when there is discovery but it helps).

Oh, I would add two other items not to do:
  1. Do not leave comments on other people's pages you do not want to read in court.
  2. Do not set up accounts for underage children.
For an article more directly on the subject of online profiles read my Dangers of the digital age.


Anonymous said...

damn sam sure does sound like u have dealt with this situation in a case or 2?..

Randy said...

Now see this is information that is actually going to be important to ongoing development of the family law system. Even though most of us know this is common sense, you'd be surprised how many actually don't respect it.

The only thing I don't necessarily agree with is being able to speak one's mind in a "discussion" type environment. As long as you are not deliberately and/or knowingly spreading false information about someone, we should be able to feel free to speak our mind without people printing off our discussions in the "discussion" type environment and using it in court. I believe if Judges start allowing that kind of evidence to be entered it will open a huge can of worms.

Sam Hasler said...

Let me see, the issue first came up in a criminal case about four years ago. There have been issues about MySpace in three or four family law cases. MySpace or Facebook (I cannot recall which) in a business case.

Sam Hasler said...

The courts get this information all the time - if the Rules of Evidence are properly followed.

As for your discussions, consider that if you said whatever you are discussing to live people in a room then whatever you said could be used in court. Again, if it becomes evidence depends on the Rules of Evidence.

Anyone who has been online for any time (I have been since 1994 with my joining Compuserv) should know that there is no privacy online in any forum except for those kept from the public.