Wednesday, November 16, 2011

No Privacy on Facebook if Judge Orders you to Turn over your Password

By Wendy Alton

I have published blog articles in the past recommending that divorcing couples completely shut down their facebook page while they are going through a divorce. In the alternative, I have recommended that at least you set your privacy settings as high as possible so that any information you post cannot be viewed publicly. However, after the recent ruling from a Connecticut family law judge, I think I may go back to my first advice—shut it down. And not just facebook—everything online.

In Connecticut, a husband in a divorce case viewed some information on his wife’s facebook page that he thought would assist him in his custody battle. During his wife’s deposition, the husband’s attorney asked the wife for her passwords. She refused, but then turned them over on the advice of her attorney. (maybe not such a great idea).

But then she had second thoughts. She immediately texted a friend and had her friend log in and delete some things and change her password. Of course this was noticed by the husband and his attorney, who then brought the issue before the Judge.

What did the Judge rule? The judge ruled that the attorneys had to exchange the client’s passwords so that they could each log into each other’s accounts to do their own digging. Really.

This is a drastic move away from normal discovery. In normal discovery (the information gathering part of a lawsuit), one person asks for information (documents, answers, etc), and the other person gives it over. You ask for emails, or contact lists, not passwords so that you can just freely roam in someone’s account. It is highly unusual to ask for, and even more unusual to receive, someone’s log-in for their email, facebook, myspace, google+, etc…

If people themselves have a hard time keeping up with the social media explosion, one can only imagine the difficulty that the courts have in deciding issues like this. These are uncharted waters, and unfortunately this is a precedent that has been set that is likely a step in the wrong direction.

Again, if you are going through a divorce, it is best to shut down all of your social media. Don’t let anything you say or do online become a part of your divorce trial. It is a simple and safe step to limiting your battles, and perhaps possibly winning the war.

Read the Forbes article here: Judge Orders Divorcing Couple to Swap Facebook and Dating Site Passwords.

If you are interested in learning more about family law or divorce, or have a question about those issues, please call Wendy Alton at 248-380-9976 or email her at

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