Attorney Jacqueline Newman encourages her high-net-worth divorce clients to stay away from social media.

“It’s very hard to take things back these days,” said Newman, the managing partner at Berkman Bottger Newman & Rodd in New York, specializing in high-net-worth matrimonial law.

Newman said she’s seen her share of seemingly harmless social media posts that end up hurting people going through divorce—for example, she had a client who over-shared how angry she was at her cheating husband on social media, and when the husband was later passed up for a promotion, his attorneys argued that it was because of the wife’s negative online comments.

Treasure Chest Of Evidence

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) reported in 2015 that 97 percent of its surveyed members had seen an increase in evidence originating from wireless devices such as smartphones; 67 percent responded that most evidence came from apps. Facebook topped the list at 41 percent followed by Twitter with 17 percent; Instagram came in third, and apps like Find My iPhone, Snapchat, Google Maps, WhatsApp and Tinder came in under 10 percent.

Attorney Michael Stutman, the founding partner of Stutman Stutman & Lichtenstein in New York, says, “The treasure chest that was once social media and online presences has seen its content diminished fairly significantly.” It seems people are wising up to the woes of social media.

Even though the horror stories of social media posts backfiring on their owners pervade headlines and even viral social media content, people continue to find themselves in sticky situations. Stutman recalled a case where a husband wanted to reduce his alimony payments, reasoning it was because he could no longer afford them. Unfortunately, the husband didn’t consider that those seemingly harmless Instagram photos of him and his girlfriend skiing in Japan and his trip to see Hamilton would throw his finances into a different light during his divorce.

Whether the fight is for spousal or child support, custody or visitation rights, property and assets or a testament of a litigant’s character and credibility, social media accounts can either support someone’s case or damage it.

Attorneys can and will dig up online evidence to help their clients. A divorce is technically a lawsuit—it requires a spouse to file a complaint in order for the legal process to start—so spouses and attorneys need documented evidence to get what they want out of a settlement. With high-net-worth clients, a lot of assets tend to be involved, and they might have to testify in court. Some attorneys will use third-party consultants like private investigators or they may turn to e-discovery tools, sometimes called social discovery tools, that allow users to cast a wide search net to find someone’s online footprint.

Stutman says most of the time the information still comes to him by way of his clients. Litigants most likely have access to each other’s social media accounts, making it easier for them to gather evidence on each other. Divorce litigants will also turn to their spouses’ friends and acquaintances to dig up information.

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