Use Facebook With Caution, Raleigh Divorce Lawyer Says

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Charles R. Ullman of the Raleigh family law firm of Charles R. Ullman & Associates says that a recent report of legal penalties imposed on an Ohio man who blasted his former wife on Facebook should put divorcing couples in North Carolina on alert.

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Raleigh divorce attorney Charles R. Ullman

Slamming a soon-to-be ex-spouse online can cause serious damage in divorce proceedings. Nothing on social networking sites can be truly private, no matter how many security settings a person places on their account.

Raleigh divorce lawyer Charles R. Ullman today cautioned divorcing couples in North Carolina about blasting their exes on social-networking sites. He spoke in reaction to a recent news report about legal penalties imposed on a man for criticizing his former wife and the judicial system on Facebook.

According to the USA Today article, a magistrate ordered an Ohio man to issue a public apology to his wife on his Facebook page for 30 days. Otherwise, he would face 60 days in jail for statements he made on the site. Those comments included calling her “an evil, vindictive woman,” the newspaper said.

“Slamming a soon-to-be ex-spouse online can cause serious damage in divorce proceedings,” Ullman said. “Nothing on social networking sites can be truly private, no matter how many security settings a person places on their account. Divorce lawyers have gleaned plenty of evidence in their clients’ favor through sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Google+.”

Ullman is the founding attorney of the family law firm of Charles R. Ullman & Associates. The firm’s Raleigh divorce attorneys focus on helping clients with divorce, separation and related domestic law issues in Wake County and across North Carolina.

He pointed to a 2010 American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers survey. More than 80 percent of the AAML’s members said in the survey that they had gathered information about their clients’ spouses from social-networking sites. The attorney said they used the information in divorce proceedings. Two-thirds of the lawyers cited Facebook as a primary source of evidence.

“The information you can get from sites like Facebook can be very incriminating,” Ullman said. “Photos can point to lifestyle choices such as partying, using drugs or spending extravagantly.

That information can have serious implications when it comes to determining issues of spousal support, child custody, child visitation, property distribution and protective orders.”

According to USA Today, legal experts are questioning the free speech implications in the Ohio case and whether a court can order someone to write and publish particular statements.

Ullman agreed that the case raises legitimate First Amendment questions. He said those issues should be explored in-depth as social networking continues to flourish across the country.

“However, those larger constitutional questions will not be answered immediately,” the Raleigh divorce attorney said. “For couples presently going through a divorce, the most important, practical concern should be protecting their interests by not posting inappropriate or potentially damaging material online.”

Ullman added that it’s not enough to simply “un-friend” and block an old flame from seeing the content they post online.

“Most married couples have many friends in common. Unfortunately, divorces often lead some mutual friends to take sides,” he explained. “If you post something inflammatory about your wife as your Facebook status, she may not see it because she’s blocked. But your mutual friend might share it with her anyway.”

Experts suggest that divorcing spouses immediately disclose to their attorneys if they have any social networking accounts. If so, they should disclose posted content that could be a problem.

“A divorce attorney can protect a client’s interests by marshaling all of the important evidence and minimizing risks posed by social networking,” Ullman said.

“Divorce is a highly emotional and painful process. So much is at stake. Having an experienced family law attorney by your side can make sure that your rights are protected. But you can help by managing your online activities appropriately.”

About Charles R. Ullman & Associates

The Raleigh family law firm of Charles R. Ullman & Associates, located on 109 S. Bloodworth St. in Raleigh, N.C., concentrates on family law, including divorce, child custody, child support, visitation, alimony, post-separation support and equitable distribution. Ullman is also a trained collaborative law attorney. For more information, contact the firm by calling (919) 829-1006 or use its online form.

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