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Facebooking your split: social media evidence in divorce court

Did you know that more than 80 percent of U.S. divorce cases involve evidence gleaned from Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other social media outlets? That’s according to a survey of members of American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, a national organization of divorce and family law attorneys.

That survey apparently also revealed that 1 in every 5 people getting a divorce blame the dissolution of their marriage at least partially on Facebook. While MySpace, Twitter and smaller social media sites are the source of a substantial amount of evidence brought forward in divorce cases, 66 percent of that evidence was found on Facebook, so in this blog post we will simply say Facebook to mean all types of social media.

While divorce lawyers have been aware of the evidentiary potential of Facebook since it first launched nationwide, many clients don’t realize that their online behavior could be used against them in a court of law.

There are a number of reasons Facebook evidence might be brought forward. For example, if a parent wanted to show that he or she routinely spent time with the kids, he or she might use the Facebook timeline to demonstrate it. In other situations, however, exes can use the very same function to disprove crucial claims about when and where things took place.

What should you do about Facebook when you’re about to get a divorce? One family attorney blogging for the Huffington Post recently put together some good suggestions:

  • Consider simply turning your Facebook account off. You can always turn them back on once your divorce is over. The saved information could still be subpoenaed, but you won’t risk getting in trouble for what you might post in the midst of an emotional period.
  • Don't change your relationship status. Either disable the function or leave it alone until your divorce is final.
  • Never air your personal grievances or make hurtful comments about your ex on Facebook. Remember, you may have mutual friends who could pass on those comments to your ex.
  • Don't answer relationship questions online. Talk to your friends and family about these issues in person.
  • Making damaging comments that aren't true could open you up to a libel action.
  • Check your security settings and limit who can see your posts and photos.

Don’t let Facebook become an issue in your divorce. Being careful, discreet and polite, especially if you have children, is essential to preventing unnecessary aggravation and escalation.

Source: Huffington Post, "Social Media 'Don'ts' All Divorcés Should Heed," July 9, 2013

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