Whether going through a divorce or any other legal dispute, you are under the microscope of the court and opposing counsel. More than half of America are Facebook users, which allows the courts’ watchful eye to extend its horizons to your social networks. Facebook and other social media websites can be goldmines, or landmines in the legal world. You are advised to be on your best behavior, especially during a divorce, but sometimes the behavior and actions of your peers can have a direct effect on your case.
Facebook has account privacy settings to protect your page from unwanted companies, however, posts from a third party can be harmful to your image. And before you can say, “Mark Zuckerberg,” a status or picture that you were tagged in can be printed off and sent to an attorney to put you in a vulnerable position. Maybe you and the girls went out for a night on the town, and one of your friends tags you in a status about “getting rowdy at the bars.” Or perhaps, you go out with the fellas after work, and one of your buddies posts a picture of you next to a cute waitress with the caption, “Look who has a new girlfriend.” This information can be taken out of context and used in court to make you look like an irresponsible adult. If there are children involved, the attorney could potentially make you seem incapable of parenting based on Facebook posts and other sources.
Some men and women think it is safest to deactivate his or her Facebook and other social networking accounts for the duration of their case, but deleting your web pages is not necessarily advisable nor is it effective. It is impossible to erase tracks left on the internet, and you should not underestimate the capability of someone to uncover electronically stored information (ESI).
Electronically stored information poses its own problems or benefits. Think of the internet as a giant filing cabinet, if you dig deep enough, you may discover sources that can help your case. However, if you “misplace” an important file, you may be charged with spoliation of evidence by opposing counsel. The Illinois Supreme Court defines spoliation as the failure to adequately preserve evidence. Critical ESI from e-mails, texts, and other web-based technologies could serve as evidence in your case, and one could argue spoliation of evidence.
Before you post a status ranting about how you really feel about your ex, think about who can see it and how it would look in court. Not only should you update the privacy settings on the internet, but also the privacy settings within your life. Be wary of whom you share private information with because most likely they have a Facebook account, and they are free to post their opinion about you, your divorce, or your ex. Also, preserve incriminating evidence from ESI to present to your attorney. Divorce is not easy or simple, but it can be complicated even more by means of Facebook. If you need advice regarding a family matter or dissolution of marriage, please contact one of the capable attorneys at McCarthy Callas & Feeney, P.C.