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Take Care On The Internet When Divorcing

People in the St. Louis County, Missouri area who are going through divorce should take care when posting on Facebook and other social networking sites. Postings on these sites are not private, and an inappropriate message or picture could create difficulties.

Electronic communications can be used as evidence

Two years ago, a poll of attorneys belonging to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that they were seeing a dramatic increase in evidence from Facebook pages in divorce cases.

Courts have not been eager to extend privacy rights to communications posted in public online forums. And even if someone deletes a message, it can usually be recovered. Once posted, thoughts and feelings are there for the world-including the ex-spouse’s lawyer-to see and use as ammunition in divorce court.

Social media postings can discredit the poster. For example, suppose a spouse claims to have no money to pay child support or spousal evidence. Then on Facebook the same spouse posts photos and comments about a recent expensive vacation.

Bragging about hot dates or drinking and drug use might be a tactic to get back at an ex-spouse, but it’s not likely to make a social media user look like a responsible parent. The evidence could be enough to sway a judge in making a custody determination.

It’s more than Facebook

Recently the AAML reported that even text messages are making their way into courtrooms in divorce cases. More than 80 percent of AAML members surveyed noted that the use of evidence from smartphones has been on the rise.

Like social media postings, texts can reveal deceptions. One lawyer recounted the story of a philandering husband who sent a text to a lover about the great time he’d had in Boston. At the time, he had claimed to be on a business trip in Denver. In another case, a man who said he no longer had a drinking problem had no defense when his ex-wife’s lawyer showed him a text he’d sent to her asking her to pick up beer on the way home. He lost his bid for custody of the children.

Staying out of trouble

Attorneys advise that people who are divorcing, or even considering divorce, exercise caution. Some lawyers even advise their clients to stay off Facebook, period. For those who continue to participate on social networking websites, send text messages or even use e-mail, the best course of action is never to write in anger, and never to write anything that the writer would not want a judge to see.

An experienced St. Louis County divorce attorney will have additional advice for clients going through divorce. It is important to consult with an attorney early in the divorce process to help avoid mistakes that could prove to be costly later.

St. Louis County Bar Association
Illinois State Bar Association
LEX | The Missouri Bar