Digging for the Dirt on Social Networking Sites

As we become a society more and more dependent on technology, social networking sites - like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and even LinkedIn - are rapidly turning into evidentiary jackpots for divorce attorneys and jilted spouses alike. Phony friend requests, drunken photos, brags about new purchases and even seemingly innocent status updates can all possibly be sources of information that could be used in a divorce or custody proceeding.

There is also the relatively new concept of online relationships, also called "cyber affairs" and "virtual affairs," that - for some couples at least - prove to be more devastating than physical ones.

Since life in the 21st century is so fast-paced, social networking sites are seen as a way to connect with people, even if for a fleeting moment. They are often used as a public forum to vent frustrations about work, a child, a spouse or life in general. They can also provide an instant ego boost: who wouldn't want to get compliments on a fancy new car, wardrobe update or attractive love interest? Those same seemingly innocent comments or photos could make your spouse's case in a divorce - and could likewise break yours.

Protecting Your Privacy in a Public Forum

Although a private life on a public social networking site may seem like an oxymoron, you can proactively protect your interests and still enjoy the benefits of social networking sites if you:

  • Are careful about who you "friend" - if you have established online relationships with your in-laws or mutual friends, resist the urge to go off on a rant about your spouse in a status update or post derogatory comments
  • Actively manage your friend list - you might want to rethink staying connected to your mother-in-law while going through a divorce, for example
  • Are wary of sudden friend requests from someone who you knew while married - that person could be attempting to gather information for your spouse, or could even be your spouse impersonating someone else
  • If you have children, do not denigrate their other parent's actions or reputation online - your children, if they are of a certain age, are likely more tech savvy than you are and may be able to ferret out information you never meant them to see
  • Avoid posting inappropriate pictures of yourself and inform all of your friends that they should do the same - a picture of you with a new romantic partner or in a drunken stupor can be extremely harmful in a divorce or custody case
  • Don't lie in the "real world" about what you do online - the two can and will collide at some point in the future

You need not give up all online social activity just because you are going through a divorce. You do, however, need to be careful about what you say, who you associate with and what actions you take. Keeping these ideas in mind can allow you to rely upon to your online friends to get you through this difficult time without fear that you could be jeopardizing your case at the same time.