Authored By: Christopher Pearsall, RI Divorce Attorney
a.k.a. " The Rhode Island Divorce Coach ℠ "
Today everyone from adults to pre-teenagers has cellular phones, tablets, iPods, laptops and every other kind of hand-held or desktop device known to man within their reach. Communication is now fast and easy and it is all too easy to post something in the blink of an eye without even thinking to Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Linkedin, Instagram and any other social media platform or app that exists out there. Yet with all this great speed of communication and information come the corresponding challenges that people don't even think about before pressing the send key and making a post or sending a communication.
Social media has become a virtual playground for attorneys and pro-se litigants in divorces to find the ammunition they may need to present as evidence before the courts, or in the very least gain leverage against their spouse.
There's a great deal of truth in the notion that once you put something out on the internet you can never truly get rid of it. Even if you post something on Facebook or in Google Text Chat and later delete it, is it really gone? The answer might surprise you. These days social media companies that provide these wonderful communications tools and apps don't want their services and their servers to go down so they back up frequently. Even if you think you've deleted something permanently on a social media platform the truth is that it's probably not gone and with the right savvy and sometimes a carefully worded subpoena to the company a person can resurrect that little trinket that could help them in a divorce.
Consider this scenario.
Your spouse has been distant for quite some time and is constantly on Facebook. Your accounts are connected and you don't see anything out of the ordinary for your spouse's posts but your spouse is on Facebook for long periods of time. Something doesn't feel right to you. Suddenly you are served with a divorce action and your spouse deletes their Facebook account.
You decide to get a divorce lawyer and you tell the lawyer your suspicions. The lawyer ultimately checks the Facebook pages of a few of the people your spouse knows at work and suddenly conversations of other people talking about how much time your spouse is spending with "so and so" and what might be going on. The lawyer checks to find a Facebook page for "so and so" and there are posts about how much time the person has been spending with your spouse and how wonderful a relationship they have. The lawyer notices that the dates are more than two years old and finds comments by your spouse that were probably once in your spouse's Facebook account. The lawyer digitally copies every page and reference and may even make a screen capture movie to preserve what is written online in case anything else is deleted or made "private" to prevent it from being seen in the future. The lawyer then prints out all the pages with the dates. Your lawyer calls you in to let you know what has been found and explain to you what affect it might have in your divorce proceeding. You want more information so your divorce lawyer starts drafting up subpoenas for people and Facebook to produce documents and digital information.
People make social media posts, send texts, chat and email without even thinking. In past days you could control information if it were contained on paper. You could know where the original was and who might have copies. Today, the digital age has shown us that for the techno-savvy person or attorney, virtually nothing comes with out a trail, and nothing is truly deleted. The question is whether you can find it.