Using Social Media in Texas Family Law Cases

I recently wrapped up a long and drawn out motion for enforcement of a child support obligation in which the father was claiming that he suffered from various medical conditions and was limited in his ability to work long hours.

What that father did not know was that I searched his name on Facebook to determine whether he had a Facebook page.  Indeed, he did.  Worse yet (for him at least), substantial portions of that Facebook page were visible to the public, including me.  That meant that I could view what was happening on his Facebook page without the need to request to add him as a friend.

It didn’t end there.  Based on information my client provided me, as well as based on the father’s Facebook posts, I was able to find the Facebook page of his new girlfriend.  Much like the father, the father’s girlfriend left much of her Facebook page visible to the public and I was able to obtain photos of the father and the father’s girlfriend out and about at various clubs and events throughout Houston.

When the father reiterated that he has been told by doctors to take it easy and not work too much, he was shocked when I showed him the photographs and proceeded to ask him questions which would allow me to introduce the photographs into evidence.  Needless to say, the judge was less than pleased with this father who wasn’t being completely honest about his situation.

The lesson here is that social media is continuing to be a powerful tool in all areas of family law litigation, including child support enforcement.  As you are preparing for your divorce, what do you currently have posted on your Facebook page or on your Twitter account that your spouse can see?  What can you do about it?

First, it’s important that you do not delete anything.  Doing so could be considered spoliation of evidence and could be used against you in a trial or hearing.  Instead, the first step is to stop posting to your Facebook account, or at least don’t post anything you wouldn’t want the judge in your case to see.

The next step should be to deactivate your account, particularly if you have already posted things you don’t want a judge to see.  It won’t delete any of the data, and it won’t stop your spouse from requesting that data through the discovery process, but it will at least keep intrepid opposing attorneys from simply stumbling upon your page with a simple Facebook search.  You can always reactivate the Facebook page later when your case is finished.

We may not be able to reverse the pervasiveness of social media today, but when you’re preparing for a divorce, child custody dispute or child support enforcement, at least you can minimize the impact it could possibly have on your case.

 

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