Social Networking and Your Lawsuit: A Risky Combustible Combination!

When was the last time you checked your favorite social networking site to see if you received a new message or to catch up on a current friend’s information ten minutes ago? With 85% of all adults using the internet and 48% using social networking sites on a daily basis, you are definitely in the majority of Americans. (Pew Research Study/Aug.2012). Consider further that of the 88% of adults using cell phones daily, 55% of those adults are using their phones to go online and update social networking sites (Pew research Survey/April 2012).

People now make available for easy disclosure practically their entire life details and confessions online. Social networking technologies are forcing us to learn to navigate the murky waters between business and pleasure. This mixture creates a “Permanent Record” of each on social networking sites.

Now that you are in a legal dispute, how may this universal sharing of personal and business information affect you legally? A scary thought? YOU BET! With so much valuable and often sensitive information now available through these social sites, the discovered information could field devastating results in many court cases.

What we strongly warn our clients:

1. Almost everything you post on social networking sites can and likely will be used against you in a lawsuit.

2. Avoid making any comments concerning your lawsuit or the judicial system on any internet or social networking sites.

3. Do not make comments about your adversary. Even “positive” comments can be misconstrued or used out of context; it is a smart idea to stop all your activity on social networking sites until after your lawsuit is over or the dispute is resolved!

4. Provide your attorney a list of all social networking sites you are a member of along with their passwords.

5. Do not intentionally remove or delete any posts, photos, or videos from a social networking site that existed when your lawsuit was filed or if you are anticipating a lawsuit. Keep everything as it is! Obstruction or spoliation maybe highly damaging to your case by implication even for innocent deletions.

6. If you have communicated with your opponent or a potential witness, provide this social networking information to your attorney at once. It can be used in your lawsuit!

7. Remember pictures communicate without words. Do not share photographs that are incriminating, inappropriate, or what may be taken out of context.

In summary, evidence from all social media sites is now being used by prosecutors, defense attorneys, personal injury attorneys, civil dispute attorneys, employment attorneys and foremost by family attorneys! Be careful what you say, post or disclose whenever you are communicating on any type of social media site! What you say or show may be your civil undoing!

Summer Visitation and Divorce? Your Sharing Attitude Will Be the Happy Force for your Children and Family!

We are approaching the end of the school year and the beginning of the long Summer Visitation!  You have probably received the letter/ email from your EX requesting the setup for the Summer Visitation with the children.

Usually this is not a happy time for the primary care giving parent, but from personal experience, you need a break and letting the children spend some extended time with the other parent will give them a chance to share time and experiences with this parent and make them happy. Remember your children love you and nothing will change that fact!

From practicing family law for a long time now, I believe there are elements in divorce that will never change:

  1. You cannot make someone love you and stay with you if they choose not to.
  2. The only person that you can be completely responsible for in behavior is YOURSELF!
  3. If you choose to have a bad attitude and try to hurt your EX by alienating your children, then not only are you not winning the divorce game, but you are causing serious damage to your Children. Even if you win, you are a loser. The Kids didn’t ask for this Divorce, they are often stuck because Mom and Dad couldn’t be happy together!

After considering these ideas and deciding no, your children were not the case of the divorce, try giving some effort to help make your children happy during Summer Visitation with their other parent and not worry about you.

Here are my “New Divorce No No Rules” that will make the Summer Visitation happier for the entire family including your EX:

  1. No talking bad about the other spouse! This is your battle, not the kids! The kids are still related to their other parent and love that parent.
  2. Make this Summer Visitation an adventure for the kids. Mommy and Daddy are not together anymore, but the children should feel that they are going to spend this special time with their other parent without you acting mad or hurt. Never let the kids know that you are unhappy about the Summer separation and may not love them if they are happy!  Let the kids look forward to a wonderful summer adventure with their dad or mom and don’t look back!
  3. Get with your ex-spouse and determine the Summer visitation schedule.  Share this schedule with the kids so they will know what is going on and what time will be shared with both parents. Meanness will not be tolerated, be nice!   
  4. Talk with the children on their ideas for the Summer Visitation. Maybe share these ideas with your EX. Remember: this is not about your feelings, it is about the love and needs of your family.

“The more you give in to the love of your family, the better you will feel in your heart.”

You, my friend,  will eventually get over this hurt of the Summer separation with the kids and maybe get a little rest yourself. Before you know it, the kids will be back, school will start and your family’s live will go on, but it is always the decisions you make to help your children cope with this family split that will determine your true character as a parent and a person.

Hoping you and your family will have a wonderful Summer and this blog has help to put a smile on your face!   —-Mark A. Nacol

Have You Been Hacked by Your Ex? Know Your Rights in Texas!

As technology continues to change our lives at a rapid pace, it’s easy to forget that so much of our most valuable and private information now hides in our computers, in our email accounts, phones, text messages iPads, and other devices. When you love someone, it may seem only natural and convenient to share your various passwords and account information or to leave your devices unprotected. However, when relationships become conflicted breakups, these security lapses can result in humiliating disasters with far-reaching consequences. As lawmakers try to keep up to help protect our information, it is more important than ever before to be aware of what is legal, what isn’t legal, and what steps you need to take in order to protect yourself from someone accessing your information for malicious purposes.

What are my online privacy rights?

Putting it bluntly, when you’re in a marriage or live-in relationship, you don’t have many. Texas did recently pass a bill (CSHB 896) to help define what a cyber-crime actually is, but it mostly doesn’t apply in this arena. Specifically, the law says a person commits an offense if they knowingly access a computer, network or system “with the intent to defraud or harm another or alter, damage, or delete property.” Although this language sounds reassuring, it is important to note that spouses are often given extraordinary leeway by courts with regards to what many would consider a reasonable invasion of privacy. In many instance, your spouse may still access anything in your computer, emails, or phone, and potentially even use that as evidence in any court proceedings. There are many examples of spouses aggressively attempting to do exactly that and successfully leveraging whatever they find to obtain custody, favorable settlements, or other advantages.

So what can I do?

If you are going through a divorce or break up,

  1. Immediately tell your spouse/ex that they DO NOT have permission to access any of your accounts, and document the message. You do have a right to privacy. If your spouse (Ex) continues to try to access your information, then they are potentially committing a criminal offense, and at the very least, any information they discover after written notice may not be admissible in court.
  2. CHANGE ALL OF YOUR PASSWORDS, and do it right away. Most of the popular online email services (Yahoo, Gmail, etc.) actually track your internet usage and display that information to anyone with your password who knows where to look. What about iCloud / Apple? If your spouse has your password, they can actually log in to iMessage from anywhere, see all of your past texts and read any texts that you receive in real time. Depending on your device settings, they may even be able to track your actual location. Change your passwords, and…
  3. If you can, enable two-step verification on all accounts which offer it. This extra step will guarantee that nobody can access your account without your knowledge and permission.

In short, there is still a lot of gray area as our legal system struggles to keep up with technology. The smartest thing you can do is make sure you protect your accounts, stay away from your spouse’s, and exercise caution in anything you do online or on your phone.