August 10, 2011

Illinois Divorce Litigation and Social Media

facebook%20image.jpgIt's rare to run across someone that does not have a Facebook or Twitter account. While few teens these days exist without a Facebook account, Facebook has been especially popular among adult users, allowing the account holder to share family stories, photographs, and to reconnect with long lost classmates.

Facebook has also begun to have some interesting interplay with divorce and custody litigation. See this recent story about how a Facebook account was used by divorcing parties in a high conflict divorce case: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/the-hot-button/the-most-bizarre-use-of-facebook-in-a-divorce-case-ever/article2054594/

I observed only last week a hearing in one of our Illinois courts that involved an interesting (and probably not uncommon) use of Facebook. The Wife was on the witness stand testifying to her relationship, or lack thereof, with a gentleman whom the Husband claims is a paramour that has had contact with their couple's minor child. Wife denied any real relationship, and denied that the alleged paramour had ever been in their home.

Following the Wife's lengthy and detailed denial of the relationship, Husband's attorney produced a series of Facebook screenshots that Wife has posted on her account, her sitting with the paramour on the sofa in the couple's living room. The demeanor of the two suggested more than a casual acquaintance.

Facebook, in the end, proved the spoiler for the Wife's case. While the judge did not decide custody issues based on the Facebook information, the judge did find that the Wife had testified falsely under oath, and barred her from further contact with the paramour while she was with the minor child.

Social media have proven to be a huge benefit to teenagers and adults alike, allowing for connectivity and interaction between friends and distant relatives. In the context of divorce, however, all divorcing parents should be mindful that these days, with electronic discovery being a simple means toward illuminating potentially negative facts of a case, that Facebook "friends" may turn out to be evidentiary enemies.

If you're going through a divorce, be mindful that whatever you post on Facebook or Twitter may be printed and admitted as evidence into your divorce case.