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A Better Partnership


Jun 2009
June 24, 2009

Family Law Attorney Mines Social Sites for Divorce Evidence

Richard Roane, chair of Warner Norcross & Judd's Family Law Practice Group, has some new places to look when gathering information for divorce trials.

Social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are becoming fertile ground for indiscreet postings of photos and details that are making his job much easier.

"Be careful what you post on social networking sites because it can come back to hurt you," said Roane, who began using Facebook and Twitter posts over the last year as trial evidence. "In the past, it would be hard to prove allegations that someone had violated court orders in a divorce proceeding — it came down to either he said, she said or hiring a private detective to follow a spouse. Yet I have found the spouses of clients who are more than willing to post very self-incriminating evidence on their Facebook sites — and then be surprised when it winds up in court."

Roane recently shared his views during interviews with WZZM-TV Channel 13 and WOOD Radio. He already has many instances where social networking sites came in handy for his clients.

He noted the example of a woman who was in process of divorcing one of his clients and painting herself as "mother of the year." Yet, during the first week of the divorce hearing, Roane's client found a Facebook site with time-stamped photographs that showed how she met a man at a downtown Grand Rapids restaurant, spent the evening drinking with him and her girlfriends and then wound up in bed with him at a downtown hotel. Roane was able to print photos and introduce them into evidence during the trial. There were no evidentiary issues involved since social networking sites are firmly in the public domain — to the chagrin of the spouse and her attorney.

"These sites can be a treasure trove of information for one side — and a nightmare for the other," Roane said.

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