What once required weeks of effort and clever detective work can now be found at the click of a mouse. People seem all too ready to air their dirty laundry for the world, and the courtrooms, to see.
The world’s most popular social media site is revolutionizing the divorce experience, pouring toxin into virtually every stage of a collapsing marriage.
“It has changed the way we do business,” said Gary L. Nickelson, a matrimonial lawyer in Fort Worth. “Before, we would hire private investigators, have opposing spouses followed, try to interview acquaintances and friends. We would strive forever to get evidence, and now people can’t wait to post on MySpace or Facebook who they are out drinking with. We just come along and scoop that up.”
This has been a growing trend among all legal disciplines, bar associations have even been conducting workshops on how to properly manage the social media landscape effectively. In a survey released last year by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that in the previous five years, 81 percent of its 1,600 members had used information plucked from social networks.
So how can you better navigate the social media minefield? There are a number of tips and advice which people going through divorce or any legal matter should keep in mind to help avoid committing legal suicide.
Tip 1: E-Admissions Count in the Courtroom
Admissions are a party’s out-of-court statements or assertive conduct used against him or her. The ‘E’ in E-Admissions stands for admissions which have been stated electronically. For example, your wife’s e-mail from tax season that she under-reported profits from the part-time hair salon she runs is an admission if you offer that statement against her in order to prove that she earns an income to pay her attorney fees.
Tip 2: Remember, you can’t un-ring a bell.
Even if they are inaccurate, untrue or heat-of-the-moment and poorly-thought-out comments, these admissions will do considerable damage to your case. Once the judge or jury hears them, that is it. Although your lawyer may request a limiting instruction so that the statements apply for some things (e.g. the speaker’s credibility) and not others (e.g., the truth), it is impossible to forget a damaging statement. Once they’re heard, they will not be forgotten.
Tip 3: Don’t forget your friends and their friends.
You can find ways to restrict the information that is made public on your pages. But, it is important to remember that you have no control over the content and privacy of your friends pages.
Often times, if divorcing spouses do not sabotage themselves, their friends, real or on Facebook, can do it for them — either intentionally because they are taking sides in the dispute, or accidentally.
“John may be dating Susan,” said Randall M. Kessler, an Atlanta lawyer who is the chairman-elect of the American Bar Association’s family law section. “If they go out with friends, she does not tell them he is married. Susan’s friend takes pictures and posts them on Facebook, where his wife sees them.”
While these tips can help you with your management of social media outlets specifically it’s important to remember that social media isn’t the only place you leave your digital fingerprints. Videos on YouTube, text messages, dating services, voice mail, cellphones, even Global Positioning System receivers and E-ZPass records can be gold mines of potentially damaging information.
Jeffrey Feulner and the Men’s Divorce Law Firm want to see your case go as smoothly as possible. With little to no interruption from preventable sources such as social media. Contact us today to see how we can assist your case and help you reach closure on your personal areas of discourse with ease.