Facebook and Divorce
Facebook has become an oft-used tool in divorce cases. Sharing the details of your life on Facebook and other social networking sites may be a great way to keep in touch with friends and family during a difficult time in your life, but it can also be a gift to opposing counsel. Your negative posts about the disintegration of your marriage and your activities or your photos of you engaging in risky behavior can harm your position during a divorce.
The purpose of social networking – to create a community – is commendable, but it may not be the best option for you to work through your issues. Denigrating your ex-spouse during a rant on Facebook may seem like great free therapy, but your words could come back to cost you later. You personally may no longer be connected to your ex-spouse online, but a mutual acquaintance may see your words and find them irresistible to pass along.
According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 81 percent of its members have used or faced evidence from social networking sites during divorce cases. The incidences are increasing as many family law attorneys look to see what the opposing counsel will find. A collaborative divorce does not preclude hard feelings on either party's end, but it is a better way to negotiate a preferable resolution to a sticky issue that may be enflamed by an inappropriate Facebook post.
People tend to forget that what they post on the Internet is available to the public and is there forever. With the increased use of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, attorneys are able to find information that they never would have been able to access during the normal discovery process. Photos of you celebrating may seem a great way to let people know you are doing fine, but it sends a completely different message to opposing counsel and the judge who is handling your case. You can be sure that if that photo exists, it will be seen. Photos can be used to prove excessive drinking or even drug use, which could adversely affect custody issues and spousal support.
Social networking can also be a detriment to divorce negotiations because people may say one thing in court and post an entirely different version of events, including photos, online. This could be considered perjury and would open the poster to serious charges. In a collaborative divorce, the parties negotiate in good faith. Finding that they have been lied to creates ill-will. If the misinformation has reached your judge, the consequences could be more severe.
Restricting your privacy settings on social networking sites may allow you to maintain some privacy. However, as has been noted, the Internet is forever, and if anyone finds a less-than-flattering post or photo, it may come back to haunt you.