Why Divorce Lawyers Love Facebook

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Prospective divorcees may want to avoid their social media accounts, at least until their settlements have been finalized. A recent survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that 81% of top divorce attorneys have used or faced evidence pulled from social networking sites during court proceedings.

Facebook, according to 66% of AAML respondents, is the primary source of this type of evidence. MySpace follows with 15%, Twitter’s next at 5% and other choices were used by 14% of respondents.

“Going through a divorce always results in heightened levels of personal scrutiny,” Marlene Eskind Moses, president of AAML, said in a  press release. “If you publicly post any contradictions to previously made statements and promises, an estranged spouse will certainly be one of the first people to notice and make use of that evidence.”

Additionally, the ways in which such evidence can come into play may surprise you. Sure, an estranged couple can expect pictures with other significant others to make a court appearance. However, lawyers will use photos, blog entries, wall posts and status updates to discredit a husband or wife’s entitlement to alimony or child custody in other transitive ways. For example, a husband trying to prove that he is a good role model may be called out for pictures that show him boozing at a family trip to the ballpark. Similarly, a wife attempting to illustrate her attentiveness may be called out on her continuous (and potentially untimely) Café World updates.

“When I had a custody suit my ex-husband used blog entries I had made,” Liora Stein told MainStreet. ”His attorney was very aggressive about anything I said or did within the social media context and made it sound as though I was the only person on the planet participating in such an environment.”

According to Evan Fray-Witzer, a Massachusetts attorney at Ciampa Fray-Witzer, these tactics are fair game. “People really need to think about social media just as they would any other communication. Anything that you tell someone else other than, say, your spouse, doctor or lawyer can be used in court,” he explains. “It’s somewhat inconceivable, but people still act like no one can see the things they post on the Internet.”

While it is true that judges largely determine admissibility of such items on a case-by-case basis, social media users should be aware that setting an account to private doesn’t necessarily safeguard them from potential legal vengeance. In fact, according to Fray-Witzer, the only way to guarantee information’s inadmissibility is to prove that the account was fraudulently hacked into. Beyond that, social media users in the midst of divorce (or any type of court proceeding for that matter) may want to double-check friend requests before accepting them.

“If you accept a friend invite from someone that you don’t really know, there’s every possibility that the person is collecting  your information and there’s nothing legally improper in their doing so,” Fray-Witzer said.  “Try to think of internet strangers like vampires – they may not be able to come in unless you invite them in – but once you do, don’t be surprised if you get bitten.”

Want to learn about other ways your Facebook status can come back to haunt you? Check out MainStreet’s article on The Dumbest Facebook Mistakes.

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