Social Networking and Divorce: Proceed At Your Own Risk
It is well know that social networking sites provide fertile ground for discovering incriminating material during a divorce. Facebook, for instance, may supply a treasure trove of information which may belie a party’s litigation position. Indeed, a claim of sudden poverty by the “moneyed spouse” could be impeached by photos of a new car or exotic vacation posted on their facebook wall.
Because social media is really a new frontier, by necessity, new ethical rules and case law involving privacy rights are evolving.
The New Jersey Law Blog, for instance, is reporting about a New York case in which a Suffolk County Supreme Court ordered a plaintiff to sign an authorization permitting the defendant to access her Facebook and MySpace accounts, including any records previously deleted or archived.
In a personal injury action, defendant found pictures of plaintiff on her Facebook and MySpace accounts that yielded relevant information regarding damages and the extent of plaintiff’s injuries. Acting Justice Jeffrey Arlen Spinner rejected plaintiff’s arguments that it violated her Fourth Amendment right to privacy. In analyzing the websites privacy policies, the court found users are aware that they post content to the sites at their “own risk.”
As a result of this decision, even postings that have been deleted from social networking sites are discoverable in litigation. Understand that anything that is put on the internet has a long “shelf life.” Boastful and false statements made for reasons wholly unrelated to your litigation, may be discovered and used against you; the lesson to be learned-be circumspect in your postings and proceed with caution.