Divorce in the Facebook era: Navigating social media's shoals

New York couples headed for divorce have one more obstacle to avoid as they work to hammer out settlement and custody agreements -- avoiding the traps of social media.

In a world where people now post online their every thought, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can be virtual gold mines for ex-spouses' divorce attorneys to plumb for possibly damaging information that can be used against them.

Marriages have crumbled and succumbed to the "Facebook divorce;" marital breakdowns that resulted from information gleaned on social media sites about an errant spouse's extramarital flirtations or outright infidelities. Divorce attorneys can discover a plethora of incriminating information to which they may not otherwise be privy while utilizing more traditional methods of information-gathering during the discovery phase of the divorce.

In 2010, the American Association of Matrimony Lawyers conducted a survey that showed that two-thirds of the country's attorneys cited Facebook as their primary source of evidence in divorce cases.

So what, exactly, may be found on Facebook to compromise a divorce or custody case? Given that a person can be virtually tracked through check-ins, status updates and photo tags from unthinking friends, plenty. Divorcing couples shouldn't depend on unreliable social media privacy settings to keep their secrets for them.

Below are some tips for Facebook users in the midst of divorce.

-- Anything you post or photos posted by others may be turned against you in court by opposing counsel.

-- Think before posting. No drunk Facebooking allowed.

-- Resist the impulse to remotely access your soon-to-be-ex's Facebook page looking for damaging information as ammunition against him or her. You will be violating the law, and your information likely will be inadmissible in court.

-- Understand that once posted, you no longer own the content on Facebook. The company retains the right to use your content without your knowledge. You have already given them permission by using their site.

-- Spread the word among relatives and friends that you need to lay low on social media right now so that they will not post or tag you in questionable photos or activities.

Social media is a wonderful tool to keep up with old friends and meet new ones. Just make sure you don't fall into a social media trap while going through divorce proceedings.

Source: FindLaw, "Facebook Divorce" Aug. 12, 2014

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