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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Facebook a "Treasure Trove" for Divorce Lawyers

By Larry Hartstein

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

As if divorce lawyers needed more ammunition.

In a new survey, 81 percent say they've seen an increase in the use of Facebook and other social networking sites for evidence in divorce cases. Notes to lovers, compromising photos -- Facebook provides a wealth of incriminating information.

"Every client I've seen in the last six months had a Facebook page," said Ken Altshuler, a longtime divorce lawyer from Portland, Maine, who is first vice president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. "And the first piece of advice I give them is to terminate their page immediately."

Sixty-six percent of the attorneys surveyed by the AAML called Facebook the unrivaled leader for online divorce evidence, followed by MySpace (15 percent) and Twitter (5 percent).

"Going through a divorce always results in heightened levels of personal scrutiny," said Marlene Eskind Moses of Nashville, the group's president. "If you publicly post any contradictions to previously made statements and promises, an estranged spouse will certainly be one of the first people to notice and make use of that evidence."

Altshuler cited a couple cases in which Facebook proved key:

A woman was getting divorced from her alcoholic husband and seeking custody of their kids. The husband told the judge he had found God and hadn't had a drink in months, but Altshuler found a recent Facebook photo showing him "holding a beer in each hand with a joint in his mouth," the lawyer said.

Then there was the custody case in which his client's ex-wife claimed to be engaged. She was trying to show she'd provide a stable household for the kids.

But the same woman had posted on Facebook that she'd broken up with her abusive boyfriend and "if anybody had a rich friend to let her know," Altshuler said.

The ex-husband's friend gave him the posting; he was still Facebook friends with the ex-wife.

"People don't think about who has access to their Facebook page," Altshuler said. "A good attorney can have a field day with this information."

"Facebook is a wealth of information," said Kenneth Altshuler, the first vice president of the AAML who has been a divorce lawyer for 25 years. "My first advice to clients is: ‘Shut down your Facebook page."


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