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Social Media Represents Minefield In Divorce Landscape

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FACEBOOK DIVORCE
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The launch of yet another social network has led to additional phone calls and e-mails from divorce lawyers warning their clients about the dangers of posting personal information online.

Sites like Facebook, Twitter and now Google Plus, have become a treasure trove of information for divorce attorneys, thanks to people's insatiable need to over share on social media sites.

You used to have to hire a private investigator in hopes you might stumble over some evidence to use against your spouse in a divorce. Now you just do a Google search.

One flippant post, Tweet or status update could live an eternity against you, and that's why I have it listed in my book as one of "The 10 Stupidest Mistakes Men Make When Facing Divorce."

At Cordell & Cordell, we find it's usually the seemingly innocuous posts that cause big problems in divorce cases. People will post pictures to show their friends their new set of golf clubs, the car they just bought, or how much they're enjoying the Jamaican resort's all-inclusive daiquiris.

But they don't realize how those pictures can come back to haunt them when they claim they can't possibly afford to pay a certain level of child support or alimony.

Judges are not pleased when this information is brought to light, and they have far-reaching latitude when making their decisions. Even guardians ad litem, who are appointed to represent the best interests of the children, are using social networking evidence in their determinations.

One of our clients was immediately given temporary custody by the guardian ad litem after we pulled up the child's mother's MySpace page filled with lewd and crude images and postings.

Evidence isn't only found on your spouse's social media pages; your kids are now posting incriminating information as well.

We had one case where the father, who was completely shut out of his child's life, was paying child support to the mother, who had sole physical custody of their son. Turns out the child had moved out of state months ago and the mother was still collecting payments. The father never would have known except his son posted on Facebook how much he liked living in his new state.

Of course, there are those people who post pictures so damaging you can't even begin to imagine what was going through their head. At my firm, we've found pictures of an opposing party snorting cocaine off of a key. Another claimed her illness kept her from leaving the home, then posted pictures online of her visibly drunk while dancing on a bar. There was the woman who claimed to not drink, but a picture on Facebook showed her with a bottle of vodka in one hand--and her baby in the other. The examples are never-ending.

If you must continue with your social network presence, keep these key divorce tips in mind:

• Never go online immediately before or after your court appearance: These appearances are often stressful and hurtful. Don't rant about it online. Before you post anything, think, "How would this sound in court?"
• Never make new e-friends: Avoid adding friends or followers you do not know or friends-of-friends you haven't spoken to in years. They have probably been sent to spy on you. (Exhibit A: The bizarre child custody case involving David Voelkert and fake Facebook identities.)
• Never get tagged by your friend's pictures. Even if you aren't posting photos to Facebook, your friends might be, so don't let them tag pictures of you that could be harmful.

The best thing to do is to -- gasp! -- log off Facebook, quit Tweeting, and don't sign up for Google Plus.

Pretend it's 2003 again when your inner thoughts and frank conversations were not being broadcast for the entire world, including your ex-spouse and your judge, to see.

Joseph Cordell is the Principal Partner of Cordell & Cordell, a nationwide domestic litigation firm focused on men's family law matters. Cordell & Cordell also provides a website dedicated to informing men on the divorce process and the challenges they face. Visit http://www.dadsdivorce.com for more information.