Tuesday, August 4, 2009

More Social Media and Family Law News

Having written about this before (Facebook Problems and Family Law and Are You on Facebook or MySpace?), it is good to see the mainstream media highlight the problems with social networking sites. Actually, it was Time magazine that probably started this particular fire.

Mlive.com's A growing trend: Social media as legal evidence puts the problem in two pithy paragraphs:

Therein lies the problem, because much of what gets posted becomes a permanent record somewhere. Facebook, for example, retains all your information even if you close your account.

Photos contain a lot of embedded information that most users aren't aware of: GPS coordinates showing where the photo was taken and when, even the camera's serial number. Estrada says the embedded information can be read out of that photo and used as evidence.

I also suggest reading Dick Price's The Increasing Role of Social Media in Family Law Cases

There are many different uses for the social media in a family law case. Fort Worth/Tarrant County divorce lawyers may be looking into someone's relationships in various ways through social media. In addition, witnesses can be researched the same way to find out who they associate with and to capture statements and pictures they have published. This is a tool that is really not very difficult or technical to use, which can lead to some very damaging or beneficial information. Everyone should be very careful about what they permit to be written or pictured, especially if there is any litigation threatened or in progress.

More reading.

Divorce Lawyers Encouraged to Gather Evidence from Social Networking Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace (Minnesota Divorce and Family Law Blog):
Minnesota Lawyer recently featured an article by Sylvia Hseih entitled Divorce Attorneys are Missing Evidence on Social Media Sites. She reports that sites such as Facebook and Twitter contain a "treasure trove" of legal evidence - especially in divorce cases. She writes, however, that most lawyers are missing the boat.


I encourage anyone going through a divorce to modify all of their passwords to prevent a spouse from creating a false profile or modifying information on the social sites in an attempt to cast you in a negative light. It wasn't that long ago that a client pulled up her MySpace page to find that she was already "single" and a "swinger." Of course, her husband denied making those changes and tried to hold it against her in court. Wasn't successful, but I guess he deserves an "A" for creativity - not to mention fabricating evidence.

From Findlaw Law & Daily Life Blog comes Tweeting or Facebooking Divorce: Beware the Private Info You Broadcast:

Social media tools simply add to the long line of communication tools used to deliver the marital knock-out. No doubt there was a first divorce by letter, a first telegraph divorce, a first telephone divorce, and a first email divorce. (Though the public nature of letting someone know on a social networking site is admittedly weird.)

However -- throw an angrily divorcing couple and some social media together, and you can get a spicy stew of information that can be used by divorce attorneys to affect decisions about custody and/or assets.

Basically, social media tools let people put much more of their life where others can see it. Just as people fire off emails with less thought than when they send a letter, tweets or Facebook posts might not seem too serious to the person sending them. Emails can be obtained in divorce proceedings. This applies to tweets, Facebook updates and information pumped through any other social networking tool.


Another downside to constantly tweeting what you are doing or updating your Facebook status ad nauseum? The tweets can give a pretty good timeline of a person's activities, location and mood. This can be used to contradict anything they might later say during the divorce. As discussed in Time, testimony in custody disputes about habits like drinking and smoking can be shown false by forgotten photos on Facebook.

A slightly different slant from Lawyers USA 's Family law attorneys are missing evidence on social networking websites:

For example, a parent who is restrained from taking a child out-of-state might post photos of visiting Disney World or other vacation destinations with the child.

Or, in a custody case that Stevens handled, a father denied drug use but the background of his MySpace page featured marijuana leaves.

A person’s LinkedIn profile can contain evidence of earning capacity or job prospects that can be useful in disputes over support payments.

In one case, Rosen cornered a spouse in a deposition who was trying not to pay alimony by claiming he had no real job prospects after being laid off, while his Twitter messages clearly showed he was about to be hired.

Georgia Family Law Blog has Divorce Attorneys Using Social Media to Find Evidence.

Get the idea now? If you did not learn this when you sent your first e-mail that you did not want to send, then you need to learn it now: think three times before you post something to the net. Okay?

No comments: