Social Media, the Internet, Texting, and E-Mail
And, TIPS to the Family Law Client:
(Note; February 10, 2012. The passage of time since this was posted has proven the importance of the advice below. Now, every Facebook account can be downloaded in its entirety. The vast majority of family/divorce/custody cases have social media content as evidence. People have and will lose their cases, their money, and their children, by allowing inflammatory or dangerous information about themselves to be posted. People are going to be on the Internet, but, just like in the jungle or the swamp, they must be well prepared if they are to be protected.)
1.This memo cannot touch the power and complexity of digital communication. But, do not doubt one thing. Your case can be grievously damaged, or helped, by the content of your digital communication. And our opponent’s mistakes can help our case. Don’t forget this!
2.The question of how to conduct yourself regarding Facebook, Twitter, and the rest, and your e-mails, and your texts, has one overriding principle: People who conduct themselves ethically, morally, and responsibly have an edge over those who do not.
3. Please understand that the Court does not think your postings are confidential. Just as your friends can betray you and gossip about you, your “Facebook Friends” may not be friends at all. If you are in litigation, or may be soon, assume that your Facebook, MySpace, Link’d In, and Twitter are being accessed by someone whose interests are different than yours.
4.If your “adversary” can demonstrate your bad behavior, bad companions, or bad values, he/she will use this evidence to defeat what you want.
5. Assume that your search history is available to others, so porn, especially child porn, drug abuse, casual alcohol abuse, your tattooed companion, that “great” karaoke party, and the rest can become evidence at trial.
6. Even when it is never used in trial, negative stuff from the computer can enrage the other side, cause them to fear you cannot protect the children, and poison the atmosphere at mediation.
7. Several colleagues have suggested to you that I “require” you not use Facebook or other social media. To me, that is akin to telling you not to use your phone or fax machine. And, it is as hopeless as telling my clients not to date.
8. I sincerely believe that dating shortly after a breakup is usually foolish and short-sighted, if only because it makes the “other side” crazy. It also gives the wrong message to your kids, and diverts energy better invested in your financial health, and the health of your children. So, also, much of what we do on the Internet is foolish and destructive. (Editor: Since many of you have or will ignore my advice on this one, here’s are suggestions to help mitigate your error: a. Pick someone you aren’t ashamed for embarrassed to be seen with. The fewer tattoos the better. b. This person must be free of drugs, alcohol dependency or a criminal record. ASK around, and look him/her up by full name and date of birth. [What he/she is offended to be asked? I would wonder why] Ignore me on this one and don’t be surprised to lose custody of your child. c. Evan if the other party will “go ballistic”, send a text or e-mail with your new “significant other’s” full name and date of birth. [You had better do an Internet search yourself before doing this though!] Explain to your “ex” what contact the person will have with the kids and that she/he has promised not to be part of any continuing conflicts. But, if you can just hold off for awhile, realize you don’t have the time and the funds for a serious relationship, and focus on your children, your job, and your health, you will be better for it. 2-27-2015)
9. But your “social network” can also help pull you through this difficult time. Remember, they may not tell you, but your real friends will NOT be impressed with your bashing of your estranged spouse, or your whining. And, it bears repeating, bash your spouse, whine, rant, brag, curse, plot, assasinate character, and post bad photos and videos at your peril!
10. You may wish to consider having separate “lists” of Facebook Friends, Family and close friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and public figures, and post appropriately to the various lists. (Editor; BUT, just trying making this work in light of FB’s fluid privacy rule and settings! The better rule? Post as if your adversary reads every word! 2-25-2015)
11. So, put your children first, do not involve them in the fight, moderate alcohol, avoid drugs and druggies, discourage friends and family from acting up, and be very, very, very careful of what you send, receive, browse, print, post, and view on your computer.
This post was written by Burton Hunter