With the integration of social media into the everyday personal lives of so many, it’s no wonder that Facebook was cited in 20 percent of divorce cases filed in 2010. That number has only continued to rise. While Facebook can be a powerful tool for proving your case in court, you should steer clear of certain evidentiary pitfalls.
All things considered, logging on to your spouse’s Facebook account using their email address and password is not a good way to gather evidence. Even when using a shared home computer, you run the risk of having your spouse’s attorney object to the evidence because of how it was obtained, or even having criminal charges filed against you. Simply put: logging in to your spouse’s Facebook account might get you trouble, and probably won’t result in evidence that the court will actually consider.
However, there are several ways to legally obtain information from Facebook that won’t get you in hot water with the court.
First, you may friend request your spouse or a friend of your spouse. While many people on Facebook have their settings set to “private,” their friends, or in some cases “friends of friends,” are privy to the majority of their Facebook activity. Status updates, photo posts, comments on other pages, relationship status updates and more will all be available to you and your lawyer. If “friends” of your spouse are willing, they can provide you with chat logs or Facebook emails exchanged between them and your spouse.
Second, you may subpoena the account information from Facebook. In many cases Facebook will hand over the requested information without argument. Unlike email, there is a much lower expectation of privacy for Facebook account information. Some would argue there is none. While this is a slightly more costly tactic, there is no question as to the legality of the method in which the information was obtained with use of a subpoena. Using this method, however, will tip the other side off to your possession of the evidence. Since your attorney is required to copy opposing counsel on any subpoenas issued, you may lose the element of surprise related to any incriminating Facebook information.
The family law attorneys at Livesay & Myers, P.C. are experienced in the use of Facebook evidence in divorce cases. We represent clients in Fairfax, Alexandria, Arlington, Manassas, Woodbridge, Prince William County, Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Stafford, and throughout Northern Virginia. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.