The last decade has witnessed an explosion in a new phenomena known as social media or social networking. Shortly after the advent of texting in the cellular phone medium and after years of having Instant Messaging (IM) on the PC, software inventors have created new programs and apps designed to link people and information together for the purpose of sharing information. Hence the birth of social networking.
These programs and apps (small applications designed to be used on mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets) include Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Stumbleupon, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and Google+ among others. The growth of social networking coincided with the popularity and use of smartphones. These programs and apps, in various ways, allow for easy transfer of information from one person to many in just seconds.
While these programs and apps facilitated the easy transfer of information, they also had the side effect of providing a wealth of information for use by savvy lawyers looking for any evidence to aid their cases. This is particularly true in the area of family law. Everything became fair game as this type of easy to get information found its way into the public domain on the Internet. From statements made by the account holder or his/her friends, to photos, avatars and videos uploaded for others to see, the treasure trove has been enormous and has had a profound impact on the introduction of evidence in court rooms across the country.
Many of these programs and apps work on the premise of the account holder having a personal webpage where he/she can post comments, photos or videos to be seen by the people they have approved as “friends” on their site. When a user posts information to his/her page it also appears on the page of the friends. On these accounts, friends can likewise make comments or post information of the page of the account holder. Some of these programs work on the premise that any information posted is public.
As you can imagine, many people simply recklessly upload information or allow others to pose information on their page without considering the consequences. This often leads to information being made public that can be used against you. One thing that many people do not realize is that just because the people you share information with are “friends”, this does not mean that people who are not your friends may also be able to view this information. Consider a post divorce situation. Most married couples have people they consider joint friends. This does not always change when there is a divorce. Therefore, even though husband and wife are no longer “friends” in social networking, this does not mean that there are no joint friends. Trust me, just as soon as you put information on social media, the exact person you do not want to see it will have access to it within hours. It never fails.
For example, in a post-divorce case in which both parents have 50/50 residential sharing time with a restriction of drinking alcohol in the presence of the minor child(ren), what do you think will happen when Father finds a picture posted by Mother on her Facebook page of her, her new boyfriend and the child(ren) at Toot’s and she has a bottle of Bud Lite in her hand? That’s right, Father would be in my office wanting to file a Petition to Modify the Parenting Plan based on Mother’s failure to obey the prior Parenting Plan. Chances are that Mother would be held in Contempt and the Parenting Plan would be modified.
In family law cases, all information is fair game. In divorces you have alimony issues, valuation and division of assets and debts, child custody ad support and marital misconduct. Seemingly innocuous statements online can have a profound effect on your case.
The Reeves Law Firm has handled many cases in which social media information was used as evidence to aid our clients. We are well versed in all social media programs and apps, as well as how to locate, obtain and introduce the evidence. Here are a couple of points you need to know:
- If you are going to be filing for divorce, clean your social media accounts of any negative or potentially damaging information and change your passwords;
- Be careful who you allow as “friends” online and be conscience of what you post online;
- Never post photos/videos online of you committing any crime;
- Never post photos/videos online when common sense tells you not to;
- If you are served with a divorce or custody papers, review your social media accounts and remove negative information;
- If you are in bankruptcy, don’t have photos of that boat you are not listing posted to your account;
- In social security, personal injury or workers compensation cases, don’t claim you have a debilitating back injury while you have videos of you doing back flips on a dirt bike posted;
If you have a case that involves potential evidence from social networking programs or apps, call the experienced law firm, call The Reeves Law Firm.