Earlier this week I received an email from Google+ “Ostara, do you know Attorney Ex, Your Attorney or Your Attorney? “.
I burst out laughing. So that is what my social media life has become? ‘Do you know the attorneys involved in your divorce’?
Forever curious, I clicked on the links, only to find my attorneys are boring and do not disclose anything. Ex’s attorney had a most interesting profile though. His YouTube channel revealed he ‘likes’ sexually semi-explicit videos. We all know YouTube doesn’t allow porn, but these ‘likes’ certainly makes me look differently at Ex’s attorney.
Throughout the divorce proceedings I just regarded Ex’s attorney as this friendly older man who was vigorously defending his client. He was doing his job, it was nothing personal against me, he was just earning a living. Not so anymore. Not after I saw his YouTube channel. No way!
And so your online presence and profile can determine how you are perceived in real life and obviously in court. Anything you say and do online ‘can and will be used against you‘ in Divorce Court. A survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in 2010 revealed a whopping 81% of Family Law attorneys have used evidence from social media in their recent cases. Facebook was the most often cited with 66%. So how is evidence gathered from social media used in divorce cases?
A person’s state of mind
A string of tweets or Facebook postings can be used in custody evaluations to show a parents’ ‘state of mind’. They, your ex, the custody evaluator or mutual friends, see your ‘ranting and raving’ or making disparaging comments about your ex, not very conductive to the strived for co-parenting and not making you a good joint custody candidate.
On some FB pages I see ‘anonymous’ posts by the page owner with questions relevant to a followers specific divorce. It is great to have support and not have to reinvent the wheel so to speak and being able to do so anonymously. However, when you read the comment section, the actual questioner replies with updates. That entirely defeats the purpose!
Evidence of communications
In fault states social media, who you follow, who follows you and are your friends could be a clue to extra-marital affairs. Not relevant anymore in most states, but from your friend list attorney can gather who you associate with and whether that is a good environment for the kids.
Evidence of time and place
Your posts and pictures provide a timeline of where you are and what you do. The husband that claims he is too poor in court to pay alimony, yet post pictures of him skiing in Switzerland a week later. Pictures of the mother at a social gathering drinking and smoking while the kids are supposed to be in her care.
Evidence of actions
Brian McCurk took his ex-wife back to court after he found pictures of her belly dancing on Facebook. Dorothy McCurk was awarded a lifetime of alimony because she claimed disability after a 1997 car accident. Apparently she was also running a belly dancing blog where she stated she had been dancing daily for the past 3 years. Oops!
Your social media and online activity is both public and permanent. My Ex requested in discovery all my FB posts. Make sure you have your privacy settings to the max, but still don’t post what you don’t want the world to know, whether it is through official discovery or leaks by mutual friends. Who knows who took a screenshot of your posts? When in doubt, just close your online accounts for a while, pick up the phone or talk over coffee with your friends.