February 10, 2010 / 8:36 PM / 8 years ago

Rise in divorce evidence from social websites

<p>A Twitter page is displayed on a laptop computer in Los Angeles October 13, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Going through a divorce or separated? Be careful what you write on social networking sites.

A poll of matrimonial lawyers in the United States showed there has been an increase in divorce evidence from websites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

Some 81 percent of the 1,600 members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), who handle divorces, prenuptial agreements, legal separations, custody battles, annulments and property division, said they have seen a rise in the last five years in the number of cases using evidence from the Internet.

“Going through a divorce always results in heightened levels of personal scrutiny. If you publicly post any contradictions to previously made statements and promises, an estranged spouse will certainly be one of the first people to notice and make use of that evidence,” Marlene Eskind Moses, president of the AAML said.

Facebook was the main source of divorce and custody evidence, according to 66 percent of AAML members, followed by MySpace at 15 percent, Twitter at 5 percent.

“Facebook is a wealth of information,” said Kenneth Altshuler, the first vice president of the AAML who has been a divorce lawyer for 25 years. “My first advice to clients is: ‘Shut down your Facebook page.”

He cited a recent case of a mother fighting for custody of her child. She lost because she told the court she was engaged, but on her Facebook page she revealed that she had recently split up with an abusive boyfriend and was now looking for a rich man.

“I‘m amazed how people do not think about what they post on Facebook while they are in a divorce case,” Altshuler added in an interview.

In another case, the testimony of a man, who said he was a reformed alcoholic, was cross-examined after a Facebook photo showed him drinking at an office party.

“Judges will forgive human failings, but they won’t forgive lying,” Altshuler explained.

In addition to being aware of what they post, he advised people going through a divorce to consider who their friends are on social networking sites.

“As everyone continues to share more and more aspects of their lives on social networking sites, they leave themselves open to much greater examinations of both their public and private lives in these sensitive situations,” Eskind Moses added in a statement.

Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz

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