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Social Media in the Family Law Arena: Pervasive and Growing

In today's high-tech world, it might be prudent to think of others -- literally, the billions of people you don't even know who constitute an undifferentiated mass on the periphery of your world -- as potential voyeurs who might conceivably gain access to your online photos, comments, downloads and other personal information.

That includes judges. And if you are involved in any type of family law matter, it particularly includes the judge who will make rulings in your case, whether related to child custody or support, spousal maintenance, property division, visitation or virtually any other issue.

Here's a thought. Social media sites -- notwithstanding user IDs, passwords and assorted buffers -- are nowhere near as private as most people imagine them to be, and inadvisable or illegal behavior that is observable online is potentially just as observable in a judge's chambers.

Increasingly, that is the case, say a number of divorce attorneys. As one practitioner notes, in the old days a private investigator might be hired to dig up evidence to use against a spouse. Now a simple Google search can often do the trick.

Imagine telling a judge that your former partner's financial demands are insatiably over the top, and then being confronted by a Facebook picture of you standing in front of your new sports car. Imagine arguing in court that your ex has an ongoing dependency problem that makes the current child custody arrangement problematic, and then being shown a picture of yourself snorting cocaine.

These portrayals are anything but fictional. According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, online evidence has been introduced in close to four out every five divorce cases in the United States over the past five years.

If you don't want to add to that number, rethink your online persona and find ways to minimize what's already out there.

Related Resource: Huffington Post, "Social Media Represents Minefield in Divorce Landscape" Aug. 8, 2011

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