Facebook Profile Is Fair Game in Custody Battle

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Facebook Used In Custody Battle

A judge in Westchester, New York has allowed a father to use his wife’s Facebook profile as a weapon in their ongoing custody battle.  This groundbreaking judgement could alter the way New York couples fight out custody battles.

The father, Anthony DiMartino, states that reviewing his estranged wife’s Facebook page will serve as proof to the fact that his wife frequently traveled out of state while he was left to raise their now four year old son.  DiMartino is hoping to obtain primary physical custody of his son, and legal papers state, “The data will show that it is he, and not she, who has spent the majority of time with the child during the past four years.”

DiMartino’s wife, Christina Antoine, has tried to block the judgement by arguing that her Facebook profile is set to private and that she unfriended her husband when they separated.  Antoine believed her argument would prevail as there had been no previous rulings that grant access to an estranged spouse’s Facebook profile in New York state custody cases.

However, Westchester County Supreme Court Justice Lawrence Ecker ruled in favor of DiMartino.  The judge’s ruling stated, “The court finds that the time spent by the parties with the child may be relevant and material to its ultimate determination of custody.”

The public portions of Antoine’s Facebook page show her on vacations to Florence, Italy and Boston, Massachusetts over the summer.  Antoine maintains the argument that she has been around to help raise her son, and spends more time with him than Martino claims.  Martino believes that the judge’s ruling is the first step in gaining custody of his son.

The ruling is the first of its kind in New York, but other states like Minnesota have allowed social media to be used on rare occasions in similar situations.  According to a family law expert not involved in the case, the New York decision shows that judges are catching up with the times.  Lawyer Michael Stutman stated, “I think that as they begin to understand what a treasure trove of data there is, and as they begin to understand the technology behind it . . . it gets treated like any other evidence, assuming it’s reliable.”

In the United States, citizens have a reasonable expectation and right to privacy, and expect that information posted on private social media networks will remain private.  However, this does not give you a guarantee of privacy whether you store personal information in Facebook messages, Twitter Direct Messages, in your email, or in a cloud service like OneDrive.  If evidence is deemed to be relevant, the court will accept it, even if it is private and confidential.  It is extremely important for people to be cognizant of what they post online, as one day it may be used against them.

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John Schutz

John Schutz

Partner at John F. Schutz, P.L.

Representing clients exclusively in family law cases for the past 24 years, Mr. Schutz is widely regarded as a marital and family law expert. He is Board Certified in marital and family law by The Florida Bar. As a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), Mr. Schutz is committed to elevating the standards and improving the practice of family law.

John Schutz

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