Facebook and other social media sites have significantly changed the landscape of family law over the last several years. We have previously noted that couples in Florida and across the country are gleaning evidence from their spouses' social media accounts and using it against them during divorce and child custody battles.
But until recently, it took at least a little work to dig up incriminating evidence. A man may have had to view his wife's Facebook page by using a friend's profile. Or a wife may have had her lawyer ask her husband to turn over evidence from his account on a social media site.
But in a recent divorce and child custody case from Connecticut, a judge actually ordered both spouses to exchange passwords. Now their respective attorneys can directly log in to the other spouse's accounts in order to conduct discovery.
It all started a few months ago when the man noticed some incriminating things on the couple's shared computer. He suspected that there was more evidence that would help him argue for full child custody.
The man's attorney asked the wife for her passwords to Facebook and two dating websites she was on. She reluctantly gave him the passwords but then immediately had a friend change them and delete potentially incriminating messages.
To stop her from tampering with this is evidence, the judge issued an injunction. She was not allowed to delete any material and both spouses would have to exchange passwords.
It is still relatively rare to be forced to hand over an account password, but things may be changing. Social media often provides a wealth of evidence in divorce and custody cases, yet no clear standard of conduct has been established for gathering this material. Therefore, judges are delivering a wide variety of rulings.
Source: Forbes.com, "Judge Orders Divorcing Couple To Swap Facebook And Dating Site Passwords," Kashmir Hill, Nov. 7, 2011
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