Gone are the days when lawyers wished for a hotel receipt and love letter to prove adultery. Social networking sites — Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and Foursquare — are now front and center when it comes to evidence of adultery and other marital misconduct. According to a study by Divorce Online, in 2011, Facebook was mentioned in 1/3 of all divorce cases. Note that this study does not take into account cases affected by texting (or sexting), Twitter, email, and the like, which would make the number even higher.
In my own divorce practice, I have seen people change their Facebook status from “married” to “single” before even mentioning a divorce to their spouse, post pictures of themselves with their lovers, brag about their lovers, and post horribly cruel comments about their spouse. Whether this is done out of sheer stupidity or out of a desire to get caught, lawyers love this type of smoking-gun evidence and will use it whenever possible to our client’s advantage. Entire cases can be won or lost based on Facebook and similar evidence.
One of the greatest things about social networking evidence is that, in a lot of cases, clients can do much of the investigating all by themselves. Even if your spouse has de-friended you, many people still know other people willing to help who are Facebook friends with their spouse.
Facebook is also useful in custody cases. Posts by children of divorcing parents may be a good indicator of many things that children won’t tell their parents, their psychologist, or their Guardian Ad Litem. In a custody case, Facebook evidence can be vital if it describes the poor conduct of one parent, or shows the true desires of the child as to physical custody arrangements. In fact, all parents can learn a lot about their child from his or her facebook page.
Facebook evidence in Court
From a legal perspective, Attorneys love Facebook and similar evidence not only because it can provide great evidence of wrongdoing, but also because, in most cases, Courts will readily allow a printout from Facebook to be used as evidence without a lot of proof required as to its authenticity. Of course, this type of evidence should still be approached with some caution. If a spouse denies that he/she was the one who placed a particular comment on her page, then further evidence may be needed to prove otherwise. Additionally, a post made by a third party is still considered to be hearsay, so unless it falls into one of the hearsay exceptions, the third party would be required to appear in court in order to authenticate the statement and to testify as to its truthfulness.
Whether or not you are facing an upcoming divorce or custody case, always remember to post wisely and don’t count on your security settings to keep certain people from reading your posts. Comments on the internet are there forever and if a lawyer can find a way to use your comments against you, you can bet that they will.
For more information from a divorce and custody attorney in Alpharetta, or to schedule an initial consultation, contact Elyssa K. Williams, Attorney, at (678) 613-5732, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.