Almost everyone has sent one emotionally-fueled e-mail that they regret. Or, maybe it was an angry, spur-of-the-moment text message or Facebook status update. As many in Washington state know, once you send such a message, it can be hard to take it back.
This is one reason why those who are going through family law proceedings in the Spokane area may want to clean up their Facebook pages and take a break from text messaging. These types of written communications, as well as e-mails and blog posts, are published documents that are used quite often in family law court.
According to recent surveys of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, more than 80 percent of divorce attorneys used evidence from social media websites, like Facebook, in divorce proceedings in 2010. Additionally, in the last three years, divorce lawyers said that there has been a very large increase in the number of cases that use evidence from cellphones. Cellphone evidence most often refers to text messages, but it also encompasses e-mails, call histories, GPS and Internet search histories.
Judges generally decide whether to accept cellphone and social media evidence on a case-by-case basis, but it is very important to be aware that your spouse could use information that you communicate through a text message or your Facebook page against you in divorce proceedings. You do not want information available on blog posts, Facebook photos or status updates to contradict arguments you are making in court or negotiation conversations.
It is wise to discuss how to safeguard your Facebook account and phone with your family law attorney. Each case is different. For some people, it may be prudent to disable your accounts during settlement negotiations, while for others it may be best to continue with business as usual.
However, just about everyone can benefit from utilizing privacy controls available on social media sites, being careful about who you befriend on these sites, and avoiding publishing anything that may be controversial, offensive, questionable or very personal.
Source: MSNBC, "Divorce lawyers see more phone evidence, especially texts," Athima Chansanchai, Feb. 10, 2012