As Facebook Goes Public Phoenix Family Law Attorney Steven N. Cole Issues Warning for Social Media Users

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Facebook and other social media outlets are used in Arizona divorce and custody negotiations more than most people know.

Phoenix Divorce and Family law Attorney

Experienced. Kowledgeable. Committed.

For users of Facebook or other social media like MySpace, Google+ or even Twitter and YouTube, Arizona Divorce and Family Law Attorney Steven N. Cole has some timely advice: be careful about what and individual posts especially if that person is going through a divorce.

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that 81% of the nation’s top divorce lawyers come to the same conclusion: there has been a major increase in the use of Facebook for gathering evidence in divorce cases. Of course this is no surprise to attorneys. However, Mr. Cole believes that clients—and the general public—should be made more aware of this fairly recent development.

Facebook is by far the most popular new media source for gathering evidence in divorces. There are nearly half a billion users worldwide and the trend for many of these users is to share more and more information. The trend shows no signs of abating in Arizona or anywhere else. Clients going through a divorce or child custody dispute may be so comfortable using Facebook on a regular basis that they do not realize the damage they can cause to their case. What they post can and will be used against them.

Attorneys will not stop “mining” social media sites for information that can be used in divorce proceedings and child custody disputes. In fact, Cole says “Not using these sites to gather information would almost be like legal malpractice. The evidence is there. It’s available and it’s useful. But I always tell my clients to be careful about what they post.” Cole recounts a recent story in which a Facebook post indicated that a parent had his children around ex-convicts. Though this may not be illegal it certainly brought into question the fitness of the parenting in the middle of a child custody dispute. Furthermore, the man denied having any interaction with those friends. His posts on Facebook told another story. The pictures also posted contradicted his version of events.

Divorce lawyers in Arizona and across the nation will use Facebook to find important information that can be used in family law cases. And they should. This is a valuable new piece of technology. However, as a service to the general public and as a reminder to clients, Cole offers the following suggestions:

1. Always make sure that privacy settings are at their maximum. And even then, be extremely cautious about what is posted.
2. Never accept “friends” requests from people you don’t know.
3. Never post incriminating photos or photos that could be used to discredit or undermine somones fitness as a parent: drinking alcohol in excess, using drugs, or engaging in any illegal activity.
4. Never post photos that clearly contradict what statements were made during divorce proceedings.
5. Don’t allow others to “tag” you in photos or videos.
6. Never tweet or post details about a divorce proceedind. People shouldn't even use email to communicate about a divorce except with an attorney.
7. Avoid posting negative commentary about a soon-to-be ex-spouse. This can be perceived as vindictive and damage credibility.
8. Never post anything that could be interpreted as signs of infidelity.

Facebook is clearly integrated into American popular culture but it is now integrated into our legal system as well. Perhaps everyone is better off—attorneys, clients, and the general public—when people are consistently reminded of this.

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