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Social Networking and Your Legal Case

Not many have heard of the recent New York divorce case of B.M. v. D.M.. In this case the wife alleged that she could not work and was seeking a lifetime award of alimony because of back injuries she suffered in a car accident at some time during the marriage.

In support of her request for alimony, the wife called her treating physician to testify that she was not physically capable of employment. During cross-examination her husband produced copies of her social networking blog, in which she described taking belly dancing classes for years. Within the blog the wife had also posted photos of her dancing with captions/comments about monthly performances. Although at the time of the hearing there were no recent photos posted the wife had commented on her blog “Gotta be careful what goes online pookies. The ex would love to fry me with that.” The wife’s attorney was never told by the wife that she was an avid belly dancer and that she actively participated on a social network. After viewing these photographs and blog posts, the treating physician was forced to testify that he was:

· Unaware of his patient’s participation in belly dancing

· Unaware that she participated in performances that required frequent commuting into Manhattan

· Unable to state that she was not physically capable of employment.

Not surprisingly, the court denied the wife’s request for lifetime alimony and found that she could work. This cautionary tale is not unique, consider the following:

· Husband who is in the midst of an amicable divorce (yes they exist), suddenly decides to post picture of himself and his bikini clad young mistress on his Facebook page with comment “NEVER BEEN HAPPIER!”, wife sees the picture, terminates mediation and files for a costly adversarial fault based divorce.

· Woman’s probation is revoked after she boasts on Facebook that she went to a concert in Canada and smoked dope

· Mother ordered supervised visits with her children when Facebook post picture surfaces of her holding what appears to be a gun, a violation of a court order

· Wife posts on Facebook her intentions of filing for a divorce and leaving her husband penniless; husband empties their joint bank account and buys his mother a car.

There is nothing illegal about you, me, the government, opposing counsel, or the opposing party from accessing a publically accessible website. EVEN IF your Facebook page is highly secured and strictly private, Facebook’s policy is to release any and all information when the request is in the form of a subpoena. A subpoena is easily attainable. No matter how secure or private you believe your Facebook account to be, there is always a way to access the information and use it against you.

Our advice: when you are involved in any sort of activity that can result in a legal action against you, DO NOT DISCUSS IT ON any social networking site and during a pending action do not update your status or profile, and stop all Facebook activity. It will and can be used against you in a court of law. Even if your Facebook comment is made in jest: sarcasm and humor do not always translate in written form (even if you use italics) and a judge does not have to believe you when you testify that “you were not being serious.” Courts generally frown upon Facebook and do not understand nor sympathize with social network users.

 

(Blog posts do not establish an attorney-client relationship and are not to be confused with legal advice as all cases are unique)