Thursday, October 28, 2010

Stick with old-fashioned networking during divorce and custody litigation.

            Practically everyone uses social networking websites.  Some people keep it simple, with minimal information.  Others put great amounts of detail into cyberspace and their pages read like a minute by minute diary of their lives.  Too much sharing by people who are going through a divorce or difficult custody disagreement often creates significant and irreparable damages.

            Information that you (and your friends) share on websites like Facebook can and will be used against you.  For example, recently we became aware of a case where the husband continually tried to play down the fact that he had an extra-marital affair.  He wisely restricted his Facebook privacy settings so that you could not view information about him unless you were his “friend.”  However, his girlfriend prominently displayed the fact that she was “in a relationship” with the husband, and proudly posted pictures of their beach vacation.  This only goes to show that it is all too easy to forget the many ways that people can gain information about you online. 

In this case, the girlfriend, presumably a proud and welcomed “friend” of the divorcing party, caused problems for the husband by posting pictures online.  Not only should you monitor your close friends’ actions, but you should also beware of people that are “friends.”  By “friends,” I mean those people who may not have your best interests in mind, or may have stronger allegiances to your adversary in litigation.  These “friends” are particularly dangerous online, because the information that you share with them may be used against you.

            The above example also demonstrates the danger of sharing pictures online.  Although the beach vacation pictures were not necessarily scandalous and merely depicted a happy couple on vacation, they did provide a poignant visual image of the alleged extra-marital affair.  Additionally, the evidence of this affair was accessible by the parties’ children and their friends.  In other cases though, the pictures could provide images that not only provided an illustration of a claim in the case, but also could lead to the opposing party having a strong financial claim against the pictured party.

            The advice we give our clients bears repeating often – be aware and cautious when using social networking sites!  The safest course of action is to delete all of your social networking sites, at the very least while the litigation is on-going.  If you choose to continue to maintain an online presence during litigation then make sure that you understand the privacy settings that are offered by the social networking sites that you frequent, and then properly utilize the settings.  Make sure that only true friends have access to the information that you share.  Also, actively monitor the information that online friends share so that you can prevent damaging pictures and information from spreading like wildfire.  Lastly, make sure that you have a secure password.  The opposing party in your divorce or custody litigation likely knows you very well.  This means that they are going to be able to predict likely passwords that you would use.  Additionally, these people are likely going to know the answers to any security questions that you set-up in case you forget your password. 

Limiting your online presence during on-going litigation will simply make your life a bit easier.  Old-fashioned social networking – like meeting a friend for coffee – allows you to utilize and rely on your social network without exposing yourself to the real liabilities that exist in the online world.

Written by Elizabeth A. Bokermann, Esquire, an associate with the Law Offices of Linda A. Kerns.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I ran across this in search of tools to help with security features with Facebook, you may want to try it out it worked for me.

Free Cloakguard plugin for Facebook available from:
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