What Role Does Social Media Play as Evidence in Divorce?

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Top Orange County Divorce Attorneys; The Maggio Law Firm

What happens when a spouse reads a “tweet” you sent about your latest date or your spouse sees photos of you on a vacation she didn’t know you were taking on your Facebook page? Is Social media acceptable as evidence in a family law case? Family law is determined by state law which means each state has its own unique requirements for property division, custody and support. All states now have some form of no-fault divorce though. In a no-fault divorce it doesn’t matter if a spouse had an affair or if a spouse was otherwise to blame for the dissolution of the marriage. The idea of no-fault divorce is to save couple from gathering evidence of wrong-doing and from blaming each other in order to get more property or something other advantage out of the divorce.

In custody disputes though, a parent whose behavior could be construed as harmful to the children, or as irresponsible for a parent, etc. evidence of drug use, drinking, or otherwise inappropriate behavior may be used against a parent in a custody case. State laws vary on what may or may not be considered in a court’s custody determination and in some states, adult behavior which does not occur in the presence of the children and does not impair a parent’s ability to parent may not be a factor. Judges have a great deal of discretion though so every case is different, even different cases in one state may have different outcomes based on each judge’s discretion.

Facebook and Twitter can be used against you.  Social media sometimes offers clues to the opposing side about the truth of matters.  A person who is claiming he cannot afford to pay child support and then posts pictures of his latest cruise to the Bahamas may have some explaining to do. An individual who claims she cannot find a job and then “tweets” about her new consulting business could be caught in a contempt situation. We live in a new world where people are constantly talking about their own day-to-day activities as well as those of the people around them. Even a careful individual who does not post photos on Facebook might end up on Facebook if a friend (or even a friend of a friend) posts a photo and tags a person in it.

Is social media admissible in court? This is a growing area of law and is not entirely clear in every state or in every situation. Tweets and Facebook pages must be verified as true and verified as coming from a reliable source. Like information in Wikipedia, not everything you see or read on the internet is true, so verifying the truth of anything in social media can be difficult from an evidentiary standpoint. It has created new questions and new challenges for attorneys and for the courts. Perhaps the best advice if you are going through a divorce is to steer clear of social media until your divorce is finalized. An experienced family law attorney can help you understand your specific rights and responsibilities with regard to social media and divorce under your specific state’s laws.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact The Maggio Law Firm at (949) 553-0304 or at www.maggiolawfirm.com.

Lay Off Social Media During a Divorce

Posted by: Gerald Maggio

Top Orange County divorce lawyers; The Maggio Law Firm

Gone are the days when one’s personal life was, well, personal. Thanks to the explosion of Facebook, Twitter, texting and other forms of social media, it is easy for folks to broadcast anything and everything about their lives — no matter how mundane — for all the world to read and see.

However, anyone going through a divorce or involved in a marriage that is clearly on its last legs is best served putting the reins on such activity. Venting about the soon to be ex should probably be limited to a conversation with a trusted confidant, preferably in person.

A recent survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers says that 81 percent of the nation’s top divorce attorneys state they have seen an increase in the number of cases using social networking as evidence over the last five years. Not surprisingly, Facebook, which is wildly popular across the globe, leads the way in producing divorce evidence. It was cited as the top divorce evidence source 61 percent of the time.

What this means if a man is going through a divorce, he should not post photos of him and his buddies in a club surrounded by scantily clad women with a post that says something to the effect of, “Out on the town, no wife, no kids, the way my life was meant to be.” Women, of course, also should keep the level of discretion as high as possible, no matter how bitter they are about the ex-husband in waiting.

Anyone who thinks antics that could be deemed as bawdy or showing a lack of character or self-control will not be used as evidence in the courtroom is way off base. In fact, when it comes to deciding alimony, child support and visitation rights, bank on social media activity coming up during a hearing.

“You’re finding information that you just never got in the normal discovery process — ever,” said Denver attorney Leslie Matthews recently.”People are just blabbing all over Facebook. People don’t yet quite connect what they’re saying in their divorce cases is completely different from what they’re saying in Facebook. It doesn’t even occur to them that they’d be found out.”

Former AAML president Linda Lea Viken agreed.

“(We’ve told) our clients when they come in, ‘I want to see your Facebook page,’ Viken said.’I want you to remember that the judge can read that stuff, so never write anything you don’t want the judge to hear.’

“It’s all pretty good evidence… the judges don’t really have any problems letting it in.”

Besides the social sites, bear in mind your cell phone could be the bane of your existence during divorce proceedings. The new Apple iPhone 4s has a “Find My Friends” application. A spouse is able to load you and other friends on their phone and see where you are on a map. So if you say you’re at a Ducks or an Angels game, but are instead at an address in San Clemente, home to someone who just happens to be a prominent Facebook friend, that relationship will be inspected.

All in all, anyone in the middle of a divorce should keep social media activity as vanilla as possible. Of course, avoiding it altogether until everything is done is the best way to go.

For more information or to schedule a consultation with Orange County divorce attorney Gerald Maggio, contact The Maggio Law Firm by calling (949) 553-0304 or visiting www.maggiolawfirm.com.

Unhappy Spouses Need to be Aware of Apps and Social Media Use as a Marriage Unravels

Posted by: Gerald Maggio

Top Orange County Divorce Attorneys; The Maggio Law Firm

Relationships are established much quicker in our hyper social media age. It used to be that relationships evolved over months but with technology – whether texting, social media, or email communication – everything happens at a rapid pace. For marriages that are on the rocks, a spouse can rekindle or find a new love and intensify the bonds rapidly.

A recent article in the Huffington Post highlighted how, “This means more affairs, and perhaps an increased number of marriages breaking up due to technology.” When a person is having a bad day at home with a spouse, they often turn to social media to relieve their stress and get back some enjoyment. But before you start to post negative comments about your spouse or send inappropriate pictures or posts over social media, think twice. Otherwise, you could wreck the success of a fair divorce.

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers notes that 75 percent of divorce lawyers are utilizing evidence from social media in marriage dissolutions. Use caution and restraint when posting on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or any online technology or you could cause more trouble than your post was worth. Remember it is not social media that is causing the problem, it is your behavior that is inappropriate. Do you want to see photos of a night on the town with cocktails in the background and a post that says “thank goodness I am away from the husband and kids”? Imagine seeing this on a big screen in the courtroom for everyone to examine when it is time to decide alimony, child support, or your fair share of the child visitation rights.

Your ex’s lawyer and the judge will scrutinize these posts and be able to take them out of context. So exercise some restraint so that problems are minimized. Also be aware of the power of your cell phone. The new Apple iPhone 4s has an app “Find My Friends” that can land you in the crosshairs of a lie. A spouse can load you and other friends on their cell and see your location on a map. So when you claim to be stuck in traffic on the 405, your spouse can see in reality you are in Laguna Beach. The GPS system does not lie, and it will be hard to show that you got lost if you were truly messing around with a mistress, that happens to be a Facebook friend that lives in Laguna Beach.

So do yourself a favor and stay off all social media and exercise caution until the divorce is finalized and you want to start a new relationship. Otherwise you could jeopardize your child custody and marriage settlement because of inappropriate behavior.

For more information or to schedule a consultation with Orange County divorce attorney Gerald Maggio, contact The Maggio Law Firm by calling (949) 553-0304 or visiting www.maggiolawfirm.com.

 
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