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Can social media impact a Missouri divorce case?

More and more family law attorneys across the country are telling people seeking a divorce to refrain from even accessing many popular social media sites while the family court issues remain pending. For many, total abstinence from the Internet is probably not going to happen, but taking time to think through posts before placing them on the Internet, and controlling any potential privacy settings may be good intermediate steps toward reducing the risk that an Internet blurt may create problems in divorce.

What is interesting is that the Internet as we know it today is only about 20-years-old. Social media is even younger. Facebook was developed on a college campus less than a decade ago. Now social media outlets have become abundant, and are frequently a part of many people’s daily (or weekly) lives, whether here in Columbia, Missouri, or just about anywhere else.

But the idea of social media playing a large role in how we interact and communicate with friends as a society in today’s electronic communication world has its own issues. Electronic communications are becoming more and more pervasive as evidence in court proceedings, including those arising in family court.

Issues beyond pure evidentiary questions have plagued people in family court arising from comments on social media outlets, according to a recent story carried by WTOP News. Some people apparently have used social media to vent about their divorce. That can complicate issues in the courtroom.

Communicating information covered by the attorney-client privilege in a Facebook vent, for instance, can complicate the divorce case. A comment published worldwide on the Internet regarding a judge’s temporary ruling can also make its way back to the judge’s chambers, according to the article.

Other, seemingly more innocuous postings, can cause ripples in a divorce proceeding. A simple photograph taken at a social gathering and shared with friends online may not appear so innocuous and innocent when an estranged spouse spins a yarn in argument about what the snapshot may portray. For instance, pictures of a wine glass may impact a custody dispute--snaps of a boat outing may raise property division allegations.

Whether a person chooses to avoid the Internet altogether or not during divorce, many commentators say that every public communication should be put through a personal filter first, as the comment or other communication may wind up as part of the divorce.

Assuming that it will be used in court in some fashion before hitting the enter button on the computer, and reflecting about how it may be used, can help reduce complications. Speaking with a divorce lawyer about issues may also help a person to avoid complications in family court.

Source: WTOP, “Navigating social media during a divorce,” Neal Augenstein, Sept. 9, 2013

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