FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-04-27
Social media outlets are so much a part of our daily lives. We can access and post pictures on Facebook from our smart phones, let the world know what we are doing through Twitter, and share our professional accolades through LinkedIn. With communicating with the world being so easy, it comes as no surprise that an increasing number of Facebook and Twitter posts are being used in divorce proceedings. In fact, a survey of divorce attorneys conducted by the American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) revealed an interesting trend involving evidence found on Facebook or some other type of social media outlet.
According to the survey, Facebook was the most prominent social media outlet used to find online evidence, with sixty-six percent of attorneys using it to find incriminating photos or statements. Fifteen percent searched MySpace, and only five percent reviewed Twitter posts. The overall consensus was that more “secret” lives were being exposed online.
Divorcing couples should know better, but thousands of compromising pictures are added in cyberspace every day. In a moment of weakness (or intoxication) they may post racy pictures or derogatory comments, believing that no one will ever find out about their transgressions. They do not realize that what they put on Facebook is permanent, even though they may close their page or delete comments later.
More importantly, this type of information is certainly discoverable, since there is no discernible right of privacy in a social media forum. (After all, it is meant to broadcast an individual’s messages to the public). As such, it can be used in a divorce proceeding.
As with the old adage “you just can’t make this stuff up”, a msnbc.com report highlights a few glaring examples:
- Akin to the recent AT&T commercial, Husband goes on Match.com and declares that he is single, and has no children while seeking primary custody of his actual children.
- Husband denies anger management issues but describes in his "write something about yourself" section of Facebook: "If you have the balls to get in my face, I'll kick your ass into submission."
- Mom denies in court that she smokes marijuana but posts partying, pot-smoking photos of herself on Facebook.
Because of this, more attorneys are advising clients to shut down Facebook pages and Twitter accounts when they become involved in a divorce. After all, they can be powerful pieces of evidence since they are accurate depictions of what someone did, said (or intended to say) at the time. Suffice it to say, if you don’t want a judge to learn about your escapades, don’t post it on Facebook.