Facebook has long been a magnet for anyone interested in rekindling a romance with an old flame, drawing unhappy spouses to the massive social-networking site in droves. Now it has taken on a new role as the eyes and ears for divorce lawyers trying to win their cases.
With its treasure trove of wall posts, profile pictures and status updates, Facebook is a divorce lawyer's dream. Now, instead of shelling out huge sums for private investigators or chasing the unsubstantiated hunches of wronged spouses, lawyers can log on to the Internet and catch cheaters in their lies.
And lies they find. Think flirtatious wall postings from lovers; married men who change their status to "single" and incriminating pictures of a weekend "business trip" that was actually a romantic getaway with the mistress.
"Facebook is a great source of evidence," divorce attorney Ken Altshuler told CNN in a recent story about the trend. Altshuler once confirmed that a woman's husband was drinking again because of pictures on the husband's Facebook page. "It's absolutely solid evidence, because he's the author of it," Altshuler noted. "How do you deny that you put that on?"
You'd think that a cheating spouse -- or anyone mired in a messy divorce -- would cover his tracks on social-networking sites; that, at the very least, he wouldn't post pictures of his new girlfriend online. But apparently people aren't that bright (or maybe they truly believe no one's watching). They post away!
Even those who think they're covering their tracks often unintentionally leave doors wide open. If an estranged husband has "unfriended" his wife, for example, their mutual friends who remain "friended" can still give her (or anyone else who's looking) a glimpse into her husband's private life. And then, of course, there's always the mistress -- who might happily post pictures of her latest (married) boyfriend.
Attorney Marlene Eskind Moses was able to prove that her client's husband was cheating by checking out the suspected mistress's Facebook page. On it, she found the proof she needed: pictures of the husband enjoying a romantic weekend in the South Carolina mountains with his girlfriend -- arm-in-arm at an art gallery; nuzzling for the camera. "It's amazing how people tell their life stories," Moses said.
With Facebook's privacy rules changing at a dizzying rate, people who thought their information was private are suddenly finding that it's available to anyone snooping around -- including their wife's lawyer. And it's not just cheaters who are getting caught, either: Ex-wives who claim they need more alimony or child support are finding themselves in a pickle when they post evidence of lavish spending sprees. Parents have even lost custody of their kids for posting seemingly inappropriate material online.
So, what's the takeaway? It really depends on what side of the story you're on. If you think your husband's a cheater, Facebook just gave you a new tool to confirm your suspicions. But if you're the one with a secret to hide, you might want to double-check those security settings -- and who your friends are -- before you post a picture of your latest indiscretion.
All of this talk about Facebook foibles makes us wonder: Have you ever caught your spouse in a lie on Facebook? What did you do when you found out?