Fairfax, VA (Law Firm Newswire) May 4, 2016 – Since the popularity of Facebook use has extended to the legal profession, it has become a principal form of communication to such a degree that in one case, a court permitted service of process in a divorce case through the social media platform.
There have been a number of cases in which the use of Facebook has played a role.
In 2015, a judge in New York permitted a woman who had spent years attempting to locate and serve her husband to do so through Facebook. It was reported that he had spent years evading service, and informed his wife that he had no permanent address or employer. Prior to permitting service through social media, Judge Cooper stated that the wife had to prove that the account was owned by her husband, and that he used it on a regular basis. In his ruling, he referred to social media as the “next frontier” as “forums through which a summons can be delivered.”
“Due to the widespread use of Facebook, clients need to be aware of the potential consequences to their case that could result from their inappropriate online posts and photos,” said prominent Vienna, Virginia family law attorney Lisa McDevitt.
Facebook can also be a means by which defendants violate protective orders. For instance, in August 2015, a man from Pennsylvania was indicted on charges of contempt of court for “liking” his ex-girlfriend’s 22 Facebook photos while an order of “protection from abuse” was in effect. A similar violation occurred in New York, where, according to Cnet, a woman was indicted for tagging the subject of a protective order in a Facebook status post.
In custody cases, parents need to be aware that their Facebook accounts can and will be used against them if they reveal unflattering photos of them engaging in illicit or unethical behavior. Such photos, especially if they include their child, can raise doubts about their ability to be a good parent and keep the child safe from harm. Therefore, it may be wise for clients to deactivate their Facebook accounts while they are experiencing a divorce or custody battle.
There was a case involving a father’s request for increased visitation. Just days before filing his request, the father posted updates to his Facebook status of photos and captions that portrayed a lifestyle that was marked by illegal activity. After viewing the Facebook posts and photos, the judge denied his request for more visitation, and granted the mother’s request for supervised visits.
Thus, clients should use Facebook sparingly or not at all when going through any type of family law matter. Attorneys should be aware of their clients’ public profiles, and issue warnings to them regarding the publication of posts and photos that could be potentially harmful to their case.
Lisa Lane McDevitt
2155 Bonaventure Drive
Vienna, VA 22181