Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Increasing Role of Social Media in Family Law Cases

One of my favorite blogs is the Georgia Family Law Blog by Stephen Worrall. He has just posted a very timely article that is based on a post in the DaniWeb blog. It is about the increasing role of social media in family law cases. In case you aren't exactly sure what "social media" is, it is a term that includes an ever increasing group of web sites and programs that can be joined. It is a way of communicating freely and easily with member of a group who has signed up. Some sites limit access in various ways and others don't. Social media includes such things as My Space, FaceBook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Twitter, Classmates and others. They can be easily found and accessed on the Internet. Here is Stephen's post:

"It's been known for a while that current and potential future employers look at people's profiles on social networking sites such as FaceBook. And it's also been known that people are using social networking sites to announce the status of their relationship -- or lack of one. Now the two uses are getting together, with divorce attorneys mining social networking sites for evidence supporting their clients.

"'Lawyers, however, love these sites, which can be evidentiary gold mines,' said a recent article in Time. 'Did your husband's new girlfriend Twitter about getting a piece of jewelry? The court might regard that as marital assets being disbursed to a third party. Did your wife tell the court she's incapable of getting a job? Then your lawyer should ask why she's pursuing job interviews through LinkedIn.' One attorney quoted in the article said such research is 'routine.'

"In addition, exes are posting information about their formers -- such as an estranged wife emailing 'friends' of the spouse the additional information that he was married with children, which he had neglected to include in his FaceBook profile. Such messages on a social-networking site can even be part of a harassment campaign that led to the court's issuing a civil order of protection, one attorney said."

There are many different uses for the social media in a family law case. Fort Worth/Tarrant County divorce lawyers may be looking into someone's relationships in various ways through social media. In addition, witnesses can be researched the same way to find out who they associate with and to capture statements and pictures they have published. This is a tool that is really not very difficult or technical to use, which can lead to some very damaging or beneficial information. Everyone should be very careful about what they permit to be written or pictured, especially if there is any litigation threatened or in progress.

Note: As always, think and be cautious about anything you put in writing, including in emails or text messages. All communications are potential evidence in court.

1 comment:

Family Law Portal said...

It's amazing how much social media is being used in family law. In Australia, it's estimated that photos/comments from social media are being used to discredit people in 20% of Family Court proceedings. In the UK, a spouse’s behaviour on Facebook is now cited in a third of UK divorces in which unreasonable behaviour was a factor. Unfortunately, social media's impact on family law does not stop there - as it’s also now a major tool for divorce-related bullying (e.g. continuing communication, posting nasty messages, hacking accounts, etc). More: Family & The Law (Family Law Portal)