In reading an article today from the New York Times entitled, Rise in Divorce Evidence from Social Websites, I was intrigued at how rapidly changing technology places a microscope on even the world of family law, as words you might have uttered once on the Internet may come back to haunt you in your family law litigation. From Facebook, to Twitter, to Myspace, to blogs, there is certainly no shortage of ways to put your thoughts out there and, from a legal perspective, no shortage of ways to contradict what you might represent in a divorce dispute, domestic violence litigation, and the like.
The article is interesting for its discussion on the rise of the use of such evidence in matrimonial matters in recent years. Even giving a cursory look at someone’s Facebook page typically reveals a wide breadth of personal information that you might not otherwise know about them. Pictures and videos are often posted, and personal messages are often revealed for all with access to see. Not surprisingly, usually the other spouse is a Facebook or Myspace "friend" with access to the page. Even less protected is Twitter, where anyone can see your page, since there are no access restrictions.
I was just involved in a Final Restraining Order hearing where the wife claimed that she was fearful of her husband based on alleged acts of domestic violence. I countered this claim in part by submitting to the Court as evidence a message that the wife posted to the husband on Facebook after the alleged act of domestic violence occurred where she professed her love for her husband, told him she missed him and that she could not wait to see him. While the effectiveness of such evidence is no guarantee, it certainly helps to impeach one’s credibility, especially during a Final Restraining Order hearing where the Court bases its rulings in large part on the a "he said/she said" version of events.
When all is said and done, these websites provide a cautionary tale for anyone party to a family law litigation. While many of us enjoy posting information about ourselves, what we do for a living, who we know and what we look like, you never know if you will one day end up in family court litigating a dispute when all of a sudden you are confronted with something you wrote ages ago on the Internet that contradicts the position you are submitting under oath. Technology will only continue to develop in the social networking realm and the lesson to be learned is – typers beware…