Divorce lawyers find evidence on Facebook

November 24, 2009 2:46:50 AM PST
So many social networking sites, so many ways to reconnect with people from your past. For Facebook user and singles website designer Mike Wilbur, that includes ex-girlfriends."I'm talking to two on a regular basis," he told ABC11 Eyewitness News.

He says the online chats are innocent, but can see how it could cross the line.

"It's a little more intimate I guess," he said.

Experts say connections with old flames that do cross the line can often wind up in divorce court.

"In a huge percentage of our cases now," offered divorce attorney Lee Rosen.

Rosen says people no longer have to go out of their way to meet someone outside their home. They're right there in their home on their computer.

"It's literally like people are knocking at your door asking you to have an affair," he said.

So, social networking sites have become a gold mine for divorce attorneys.

"When somebody is tempted by the opportunity that Facebook presents them, it takes a weak marriage and destroys them," said Rosen.

And, it makes adultery easy to prove.

"Realistically, anything you put on Facebook or on Twitter or other social network sites, is going to be discoverable. You have no privacy ultimately," Rosen explained.

Computer experts say anything you post can potentially be found.

Giovanni Masucci is the CEO of National Digital Forensics in Raleigh. They work with the FBI and SBI on cyber crime cases and are being contacted more and more by divorce attorneys.

"First it's a minor flirtation, getting to know their past friend, next thing you know it's a budding romance," he offered.

Cyber sleuths can capture past posts, pictures and emails.

"We see from 'will you meet me at a hotel.' We find Google maps, directions, maps and so on. Why did the person go there? They had no other reason to go there?" he explained. "When they said they were in one place but they're actually in another, we're seeing all of that."

And software that supposedly erases your cyber steps doesn't wipe it out completely. Evidence isn't just limited to your computer. There are tools now that can hook up to any cell phone, Blackberry, or iPhone, and information can be extracted from emails, pictures, and videos. It's all evidence that could be used against a cheater.

Another longtime family attorney Victoria Bender says there are some ethical issues with social networking sites in divorce cases.

"If you will accept anybody as your friend and my paralegal goes online and says will you be my friend and they say yes and they look at everything that's on your Facebook page, that's probably a violation of my ethical obligation to give full disclosure when you're talking to the attorney in a case. However, if your friend goes and does it before you go to see an attorney and they get all this information from Facebook, they haven't done anything wrong," she explained.

Attorneys say people need to think before they post.

"I could see how it leads to trouble," said Mike Wilbur.

For now, Wilbur will continue working on his website for singles in Raleigh while pondering whether to unfriend those married old flames on Facebook before one of them gets the wrong idea.

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