Lawyers will use whatever they can
AUSTIN (KXAN) – The oldest institution is meeting new media. And the results can be heartbreaking.
With Facebook and MySpace pictures, status updates, and blogs open for friends and family to see, things that used to be private and sacred pieces of a marriage are now being broadcast.
“I was just sad at the way Facebook was being used,” said a woman, who wanted to keep her identity secret since she has a daughter who was at the center of some social media drama.
The woman told KXAN that her now ex-husband and his new girlfriend posted nasty articles and made derogatory comments about her on Facebook.
“We all have our crosses to bear, but to drag it into the public eye,” she said.
And it was there for all their mutual friends to see, a marriage gone bad.
“It can affect my child’s life, business life, personal life and even my religious community,” said the woman.
It is rare when you find someone who does not have a Facebook page these days and you can bet attorneys know that.
“Maybe two years ago, you would hear a story about a lawyer using Facebook, but now it is day-to-day when you hear about a posting or photo that completely won or lost a case,” said Clay Butler with The Butler Firm.
As divorce cases head to courtrooms, those postings are often ending up as evidence.
“The Facebook postings have become the new smoking gun,” said Butler.
Judge Orlinda Naranjo presides over divorce cases in the 419th Distrct Court and said the use of Facebook in court proceedings has exploded in recent years.
“You have a very valuable tool where you can go in and try to get information,” said Naranjo. “You are finding information about that person’s opinion and activities.”
And sometimes that information is not consistent with what she sees in court.
“You have a document that contradicts the persona that they try to portray in the courtroom,” she said.
For that reason, Naranjo cautions people to be careful when making a Facebook posting in fun or in jest because you might have to justify it.
“It is much easier to write something down than say it to a person. So many people will instantly respond to something and they cannot take it back,” Naranjo said.
Computer forensics can even retrieve postings that were deleted.
“It is sort of like when people say things in an email they would never say anywhere else,” said attorney Joe Milner, who said those people should not expect a break from an opposing attorney.
“If there is information we can use, we will use it,” she said.