Facebook Can Haunt You in Your Divorce

The proliferation of online social media outlets has made communicating easier than ever before. With Facebook, Twitter and other communication venues, people can catch up with friends, share their lives, and vent to an unlimited number of people with just a few keystrokes. With so much freedom for people to express themselves, it is no wonder that pictures (or posts) from Facebook are being used in divorce proceedings.

In fact, a survey of divorce attorneys conducted by the American Association of Matrimonial Attorneys revealed that an increasing number of cases involve evidence found on Facebook or some other type of social media outlet.

While there are many theories behind this phenomenon, many people believe that they are simply blowing off steam or that they create posts in jest. Others think that privacy settings protect them and that no one will ever find out about their indiscretions. The truth is, information posted on Facebook is permanent, even though the user may close their page or delete comments later. Also, posts and pictures are discoverable information since there is no discernible right of privacy in a public social media forum. As such, it can be used in a divorce proceeding.

The attorneys surveyed were surprised with how many incriminating pictures and statements are circulated through cyberspace. An msnbc.com report highlights a few glaring examples:

- Husband denies anger management issues but describes in his "write something about yourself" section of Facebook: "If you have the balls to get in my face, I'll kick your ass into submission."

- Mom denies in court that she smokes marijuana but posts partying, pot-smoking photos of herself on Facebook.

- Mom explains to the judge that she is diligently working on her sobriety, but husband recovers recent Facebook pictures of her dancing in a nightclub with a drink in her hand.

People facing divorce should be mindful of their Facebook pages; especially with regard to who they have friended, and when posts and pictures are added. Facebook images could be used show true examples of a person's lifestyle, as well as a timeline to chronicle their actions. This can be particularly troublesome if physical or legal custody is in dispute. Pictures of a parent in compromising situations or exercising questionable judgment can (and will) be used. Ultimately, if you don't want a judge learning about your past escapades, do not post it on Facebook.

The preceding is not intended to be legal advice. If you have questions about protecting information on social media venues, contact an experienced attorney.