Evidence from social networking websites is used more and more often in lawsuits and divorces these days. This information is typically obtained by visiting a party’s page or requesting information from the party personally, not from obtaining a party’s password and signing into their account on your own accord. However, judges are beginning to force parties to surrender passwords to their Facebook accounts.
On September 30, 2011, a Superior Court of Connecticut issued an order requiring “[c]ounsel for each party  exchange the password(s) of their client’s Facebook and dating website passwords. The parties themselves shall not be given the passwords of the other.” Stephen Gallion v. Courtney Gallion, Clarification of Order. Courtney and Stephen are in a custody battle, and Stephen is seeking full custody of the parties’ children. To bolster his position, he sought access to Courtney’s Facebook and online dating accounts because he and his attorney suspected that they would find evidence of how Courtney feels about her children and her ability to care for them. They requested that the court order Courtney to provide her password; the court ordered the attorneys to exchange the parties’ passwords, and also issued an injunction prohibiting Courtney from deleting any information from these websites. (Summary from Forbes).
As social networking becomes a larger part of our lives, it will play a larger role in our lawsuits. Typically, if a party is ordered to provide social networking data, he or she will be required to produce responsive material (e.g. printouts of a party’s profile page), not the passwords, which would allow the other side to gain unfettered access to more content. However, recent cases show a different pattern. Lawyer and tech blogger Venkat Balasubramani has written about several other civil cases 1) where judges have issued similar orders, including a personal injury case, 2) where judges have taken it upon themselves to sign into someone’s Facebook account and look for evidence, 3) as well as cases where judges have rejected lawyers requesting opposing litigants’ passwords, as in an insurance case involving State Farm (Summary from Forbes).
The Certified Family Law Specialists* at Lonich & Patton have decades of experience handling complex and heavily disputed divorce and support issues. If you are contemplating divorce, please contact the Certified Family Law Specialists* at Lonich & Patton, who can provide you with an in depth analysis of your issues. Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.
*Certified Family Law Specialist, The State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization
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