Today’s guest blog is by David Wilkinson Esq. CFLS While this information can apply to either the chump or the cheater, I thought it was important to run, because as many of us know from sad experience, disordered people often online stalk you and try to find things to incriminate you with in court. (This happened to me. I had things I posted anonymously on support forums used against me at a custody trial — not that it got any traction.) So if you’re divorcing, do your prep work and your research! Doesn’t hurt to be too careful. Cheaters? Let’s hope they’re sloppy. — Tracy
While testifying in family court during her divorce trial, Sally began to wonder why her husband and his attorney began smiling and smirking following several comments by Sally regarding the “work trip” she took in 2014 to San Francisco. Sally was then presented with a slew of documents including copies of her Facebook photo albums showing pictures of Sally with her boyfriend at a fancy hotel in San Francisco on the weekend she was allegedly working. She was also presented with email messages that she had previously deleted from her home computer contradicting her testimony moments ago. Sally’s body slunk in the witness seat as the family judge glared at her. Sally wondered how this could happen.
Technology can have a powerful impact in modern divorce cases. Divorcing litigants are often shocked to see the level of technology being used as a sword against them. Sometimes, litigants aren’t even aware such technology exists.
Here are several interesting facts that you may not be aware, which might apply to your divorce case:
- Did you know that there is an “underground” server that stores copies of website pages that were previously taken down? Technology experts can often find these deleted pages, which may include business pages created by a spouse.
- Did you know that cell phone carriers do not retain copies of text messages for more than approximately three days before purging them? Even you timely subpoena text messages sent by your spouse, the carrier will not release the messages, relying on federal law. The carriers do retain the dates and times when messages were sent.
- If you think that information has been deleted from a computer hard drive, think again. Forensic computer experts are often able to extract deleted data from computer hard drives so long as the drive has not been physically damaged or destroyed, including documents, photographs and videos, and email messages.
- There are over 37 million subscribers to the Ashley Madison website service, which matches individuals that wish to cheat on their spouse.
- Every available email, text message, Tweet, Facebook post, LinkedIn entry, Snapchat or Instagram photo, or other social media communication that a divorcing litigant has made can be used against that person to either impeach or serve as a party admission at trial.
- Every new smartphone uses GPS and data is retained on the device showing exactly where the holder of the phone went over a period of time.
Always follow these eight simple steps before a divorce case is ever filed (or as soon as possible thereafter):
1. Perform a Google search with every variation of your name, including a search for images, to ensure that no unsightly information concerning you exists on the web.
2. Review your privacy and security settings on all social media accounts.
3. Do not “friend” anyone on Facebook that you do not know personally. Investigators routinely create fake accounts to try and gain access to profiles and information.
4. Let your friends and family know that they should beware of any person they do not personally know trying to befriend them on Facebook.
5. Change all online passwords to social media accounts, bank and investment accounts, life insurance and other financial accounts.
6. Avoid posting a “tweet” on Twitter. If you must tweet, be sure to disable the tweet location settings and try not to say anything disparaging out your soon-to-be ex.
7. Avoid sending Snapchat photos or posting Instagram photos unless you are absolutely sure they will have no relevance in your divorce case. Especially in the case of Snapchat, software exists that can recover photos and conversations that were ‘deleted’ by the app.
8. Disable your LinkedIn account or ensure the accuracy of your LinkedIn profile page.
For more on divorce and technology, visit here.
David Wilkinson is an attorney and Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) licensed to practice law in California and Massachusetts.
Mr. Wilkinson , co-founder of Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, handles all facets of family law, from straightforward negotiation and preparation of pleadings to complex litigation.
For the past four years, Mr. Wilkinson has served as pro bono supervising attorney for the California Western School of Law and University of California San Diego joint collaborative legal-medical Community Law Project.
He recently left California to start the firm’s new office in Boston, Mass.