USA Today discussed recently how divorce lawyers are using Facebook and data from World of Warcraft for evidence in divorce cases:
“Facebook is the unrivaled leader for turning virtual reality into real-life divorce drama. Sixty-six percent of the lawyers surveyed [by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers] cited Facebook indiscretions as the source of online evidence.”
Why? Here’s some examples from the article:
• Husband goes on Match.com and declares his single, childless status while seeking primary custody of said nonexistent children.
• Father seeks custody of the kids, claiming (among other things) that his ex-wife never attends the events of their young ones. Subpoenaed evidence from the gaming site World of Warcraft tracks her there with her boyfriend at the precise time she was supposed to be out with the children. Mom loves Facebook’s Farmville, too, at all the wrong times.
• Mom denies in court that she smokes marijuana but posts partying, pot-smoking photos of herself on Facebook.
Social networks are also ripe for divorce-related hate and smear campaigns among battling spousal camps, sometimes spawning legal cases of their own.
“It’s all pretty good evidence,” Viken said. “You can’t really fake a page off of Facebook. The judges don’t really have any problems letting it in.”
The attorneys offer these tips for making sure your out-loud personal life online doesn’t wind up in divorce court:
What you say can and will be held against you
If you plan on lying under oath, don’t load up social networks with evidence to the contrary.
“We tell our clients when they come in, ‘I want to see your Facebook page. I want you to remember that the judge can read that stuff so never write anything you don’t want the judge to hear,'” Viken said.
Beware of your frenemies
Going through a divorce is about as emotional as it gets for many couples. The desire to talk trash is great, but so is the pull for friends to take sides.
“They think these people can help get them through it,” said Marlene Eskind Moses, a family law expert in Nashville, and current president of the elite academy of divorce attorneys. “It’s the worst possible time to share your feelings online.”
A picture may be worth big bucks
Grown-ups on a good day should know better than to post boozy, carousing or sexually explicit photos of themselves online, but in the middle of a contentious divorce?
Ken Matthews recalls photos of a client’s partially naked estranged wife alongside pictures of their kids on Facebook.
“He was hearing bizarre stories from his kids. Guys around the house all the time. Men running in and out. And there were these pictures,” Matthews said.
Privacy, privacy, privacy
They’re called privacy settings for a reason. Find them. Get to know them. Use them. Keep up when Facebook decides to change them.
Viken tells a familiar story: A client accused her spouse of adultery and he denied it in court.
“The guy testified he didn’t have a relationship with this woman. They were just friends. The girlfriend hadn’t put security on her page and there they were. ‘Gee judge, who lied to you?'”
Ultimately, people anticipating a fight in divorce should be careful that their story matches up with what they say and do online.
F U R T H E R R E A D I N G :
Divorce Poison New and Updated Edition: How to Protect Your Family from Bad-mouthing and Brainwashing
Divorce Poison Protecting the Parent-Child Bond from a Vindictive Ex
The Smart Divorce: Proven Strategies and Valuable Advice from 100 Top Divorce Lawyers, Financial Advisers, Counselors, and Other Experts