“The internet’s not written in pencil, Mark, it’s written in ink.”
The Social Network. Dir. David Fincher, Columbia Pictures, 2011.
With all the cruddy weather we have been having lately, I have spent more time at home. Spending time on the internet usually leads to Facebook of which I am not a huge fan. I don’t post pictures, I don’t give opinions and I generally just observe. I know people who post every aspect of their lives on that platform – from taking pictures of their food, to posting party invitations.
Facebook as a Factor in Divorce Proceedings
It is not shocking that some people share too much and what is shared is being used against the sharer. According to a January article in the Washington Times by Cheryl K. Chumley, “Facebook is now cited in about a third of all divorce cases.” The article cites a study reported in an article by the Daily Mirror. Researchers surveyed various legal firms and found that the number of cases that use evidence gathered from Facebook is increasing. According to the study, law firms are able to utilize Facebook to find evidence of infidelity, new relationships, where people are going and even how much they are spending.
Steven Evorsole, in the Alabama Divorce & Family Law Attorney Blog cites a study conducted in 2013 by researchers at the University of Missouri who found that people who use Facebook excessively are more likely to experience conflict with their romantic partners, and that conflict can often lead to negative outcomes, such as break-up and divorce.
How Facebook Can Help Your Case
Mr. Eversole also discusses how evidence gathered from Facebook can be used in a divorce proceeding. He provides several examples:
- For an equitable distribution hearing, showing pictures that may identify assets that may have been excluded from a property disclosure
- In a custody and support hearing, pictures of one of the parties behaving poorly to show they are an unfit parent
- Pictures showing that a couple is not obeying a contact order – i.e. allowing the child to be around a boyfriend or girlfriend.
Keep this rule in mind, if you go to trial, anything negative that you have done or said will be brought back and magnified 10,000 times. In other words, you may do something against your spouse that might seem small or petty at the time, but if you get to a divorce hearing, count on your opposition trying to use it against you.
Here are a few tips for protecting yourself:
- Immediately after separation clean your friends list. Unfriend any potential issues.
- Don’t post pictures of yourself with alcohol or drugs
- Do not keep text or chat conversations after they finish. Delete them as you go. Better yet, don’t say anything or if you absolutely have to say something, use the phone.
Divorce is tough. If you are one who likes to share, keeping quiet can be tough as well. If you have to type or share something just follow the rule we all learned in grade school – “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”