It's been known for a while that current and potential future employers look at people's profiles on social networking sites such as Facebook.
And it's also been known that people are using social networking sites to announce the status of their relationship — or lack of one.
Now the two uses are getting together, with divorce attorneys mining social networking sites for evidence supporting their clients.
"Lawyers, however, love these sites, which can be evidentiary gold mines," said a recent article in Time. "Did your husband's new girlfriend Twitter about getting a piece of jewelry? The court might regard that as marital assets being disbursed to a third party. Did your wife tell the court she's incapable of getting a job? Then your lawyer should ask why she's pursuing job interviews through LinkedIn." One attorney quoted in the article said such research is "routine."
In addition, exes are posting information about their formers — such as an estranged wife emailing "friends" of the spouse the additional information that he was married with children, which he had neglected to include in his Facebook profile.
Such messages on a social-networking site can even be part of a harassment campaign that led to the court's issuing a civil order of protection, one attorney said.
Private investigators in Georgia are a little irked at a proposed bill that could disallow placing GPS trackers on vehicles. While the bill excludes parents tracking kids, cops, and enterprise usage, it includes private investigators.
Inside a completely ordinary SUV parked anywhere in Metro Atlanta, private investigator T.J. Ward and his team can track anyone at any time, without them knowing.
Instead following a target, running red lights and swerving through traffic, investigators like Ward can just stick a little box with a magnet to the bottom of a car in seconds. As a person drives, a computer program tracks them via satellite, and prints a list of their whereabouts — even how fast they were going. Ward’s team has been hired by parents after a bitter child custody case, or a spouse.
One of Ward’s clients, who was married for 18 years, said that he used it for several weeks, just tracking where his wife’s vehicle was, and confirmed his suspicions. He credits the GPS surveillance with saving him millions of dollars in alimony.
Ward said, “These are the tools of our trade, just like it is with law enforcement.”That might not be the case for long. A proposed bill is in the Georgia
Legislature to outlaw the devices. It gives exception to law enforcement officers, but private investigators are not included.
Rep. Kevin Levitas wrote the legislation to protect Georgians, and offers exceptions for parents tracking children, cops tracking criminals, and employers watching
their vehicles, but not private investigators.”I think you or I need to be able to go to the shopping center, get a carton of eggs, and not have to check under our car to see if someone placed a tracking device,” said Levitas. “I think the legislation’s good so any John Doe person can’t walk into a store, buy a GPS and throw it on someone’s car, just because they want to know where someone is.”
Frequently parents of divorce have an agreement, or a court order, to meet at a halfway point for purposes of exchanging their children for visitations. For families following such an arrangement, MeetWays is a neat website.
Meetways.com was created to let its users find a point of interest between two addresses. Let's say you need to meet your ex and the kids at some halfway point? Meetways.com will allow you to enter both addresses, then give you the exact halfway point and a list of restaurants and points of interest in that area. Save hours trying to figure out the halfway point on a map and instead find it in one simple click!
From the ‘Tech Corner’ of last month’s ABA Family Law Section’s eNewsletter: When you hear the term ‘timeshare,’ you might first think of real estate or condos in Las Vegas. But in the realm of family law, timeshare often refers to the time a child spends with each parent. In his ‘Tools of the Trade’ column in Family Advocate (Vol. 20, No. 3), Stephen J. Harhai wrote, ‘The fundamental problem in working out time-sharing issues is that it is hard to visualize or calculate the effect of a given plan without a lot of grunt work. We have spent untold hours marking calendars, counting days, writing explanations, and generally driving ourselves crazy getting a handle on complicated time-sharing arrangements.’ Though written in 1998, Harhai’s words still ring true today; however, now there are more technological advances at your disposal to assist with managing the schedules of separate households. Parenting Plan Technology’ by Tonya Johnson, published in the ABAFamily Law Section’s May 2008 eNewsletter.
Parenting Plan Technology
This category of software creates parenting plans based on agreed-upon or court-ordered visitation schedules, and also calculates percentage splits. Central to these programs is a calendar that displays visitation schedules as well as activity, holiday and vacation schedules on a daily, weekly or monthly basis with annual and monthly reporting features. This is essential because in many states, support is calculated based on the amount of time that each parent spends with a child. These programs make it possible to record and consequently measure parental time as well as scheduling changes.
While these tools can help family lawyers create compliant parenting plans for their clients, they may also be used by parents and mediators. Several have been developed specifically for collaboration between parents and caregivers and can serve as a means of record keeping for changing or gaining custody.
Following are some options available to navigate the complexities of custody and visitation agreements.
Custody Keeper, formerly ChildShare, offers a collaborative option for parents and caregivers as well as benefits to attorneys. Custody Keeper helps present a clear schedule that everyone will understand to facilitate joint or shared custody. It enables you to track or plan time spent with children, as well as track expenses, events, incidents, support payments, and allows you to keep daily comments. The multi-year calendar includes U.S., Canadian, and custom holidays; you also have the ability to print calendars and reports (for yourself, your clients, or the court) and export your schedules and reports in PDF format.
Parenting Plan Software for Attorneys
Custody X Change is a software package for managing child custody and maximizing timeshare for one party (or the other). Initially designed for family lawyers who wanted a tool to win more time for their clients without having to manually re-compute every option, it is now also available to parents. The software includes the ability to print out calendars and reports; you can also download a free trial version from the website.
Kidmate, created in 1996 to meet the need for creating visitation schedules and calculating percentage splits, was one of the first computer programs for negotiating custody between separating parents. Kidmate’s Timesharing Organizer creates timesharing and visitation schedules. In the event of an adversarial custodial matter, the Record Keeper module can help you document the history of the timesharing/visitation schedule. Kidmate’s patented Percentages and Day Counter feature analyzes schedules four different ways (Overnights, Total Time, Quality Time, and Day Counter) and displays all results on the screen for comparison. The Day Counter is used in many states for calculating child support and shows the cumulative number of days that children spend with each parent per year. (Note: Kidmate was reviewed by Stephen Harhai in Family Advocate, Vol. 20, No. 3.)
OurFamilyWizard is an online tool that enables parents to coordinate schedules, share information, make adjustments to the parenting plan and track shared expenses. Features include a detailed calendar where activities, events and other scheduled items can be viewed generally or in detail, including drop-offs and pick-ups. Journals can be set as shared or private and are color-coded for each family member. The OurFamilyWizard professional account has case management features that allow family law practitioners to create parent accounts, manage client databases, store important client documents online (judgment and decree, court orders, etc.), enable communication with clients, create client to-do lists, and more. An OurFamilyWizard account provides the ability to review case status by linking information to parent accounts.
Parenting Time Calendar by PCGreeting was written by a programmer and a family law legal assistant specifically for lawyers to generate parenting time schedules. It includes holidays for Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. Three versions of the Parenting Time Calendar are available: Single Year Standard, Single Year Deluxe, and 2 Year Deluxe. The Single Year Deluxe performs quality time calculations based on user-defined pickup and dropoff, and the 2 Year Deluxe allows the creation of two-year parenting plans.
Shared Ground is shared parenting calendar software that distributes time equitably between two primary caregivers. Defaults may be used or a custom-designed parenting plan may be created. The calendar can be synchronized with a Palm™-compatible PDA or exported to Microsoft Outlook. Shared Ground’s Percentage Calculator displays how much time children are with each parent and can be viewed monthly or examined as an annual distribution report. Shared Ground also includes sample parenting plans and defaults that can be customized. The Shared Ground Enterprise License was designed for divorce and family law attorneys and others involved in developing parenting plans for clients.
To encourage collaborative parenting and promote parental communication and cooperation, several vendors offer tools that enable the parents to develop their own parenting plans and visitation schedules. The plans can be presented to the court and stand a better chance of being approved when created by the parents.
KidsFirst! is a web-based parenting time tracker that can be used to develop parenting plans and visitation schedules. Parents have the option to share one account and answer the questions together, or create separate accounts and provide separate answers, which can be kept private from the other parent. If both parents have agreed to share answers, KidsFirst! compares the answers of both parents to show where the parents are in agreement or need to agree.
Parental Collaboration Tools
Shared Ground provides a Co-Parenting License or two-user single license designed to accommodate two primary Residential Parents (co-parents) or caregivers. This license entitles you to a single software key and two copies of the software program available for downloading from the website. It allows one single Parenting Plan to be created, edited and managed on two separate computers. It can be shared with extended family members, if they have a View-Only License.
The OurFamilyWizard® Parent Account provides access to private and shared family calendars with notifications and reminders, an expense log, journal, and message board along with online access to important documents (My Files).
OPTIMAL™, the Online Parenting Time Information Manager and Access Log, is an online tool that tracks parenting time and monitors custody compliance. OPTIMAL is designed primarily for parental record keeping; it enables parents to keep detailed records for scheduled parenting time and actual time, visit type (regular, denied, late, missed) denied and partial visitation, mileage and expenses. It also counts and displays overnights and provides time-stamps for use in court. A host of other features are also included.
Lipstick on the collar? One too many late nights at the office? Internet browsing histories?
Divorce lawyers are seeing an increase in the number of cases that cite Web logs as evidence, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
About 79-percent of divorce attorneys polled by the Academy reported an increase in the number of cases using Internet browsing histories during divorce proceedings in the past five years, while 44-percent cited an increase in the use of spyware to gather evidence.
"Many spouses will use the Internet in order to act anonymously, but in many ways it’s the most public thing someone can do," James Hennenhoefer, president of the AAML, said in a statement. "Internet activity can provide valuable glimpses into the kinds of hidden activities that a husband or wife might be trying to conceal and spyware programs can help to make this kind of monitoring extremely easy to conduct."
Evidently, typing things like "how to cheat without getting caught" into Google, signing yourself up for a marriedbutlooking.com account, or writing up one too many "casual encounters" posts on Craigslist is not advisable if you’d prefer to emerge from divorce court with your bank account intact.
Think about that when you’re taking advantage of the open bar at your friends’ weddings this summer. Forget the blenders and the Williams Sonoma gift cards. It’s all about the tracking software. Ah, romance.
We’re the YouTube Generation, living in the YouTube Era, in a YouTube World. And now we apparently have a YouTube Divorce.
Some prominent New York divorce lawyers couldn’t think of another case where a spouse — in this instance, the wife of a major Broadway theater operator — had taken to YouTube to spill the secrets of a marriage in an apparent effort to gain leverage and humiliate the other side.
"This is absolutely a new step, and I think it’s scary," said Bonnie Rabin, a divorce lawyer who has handled high-profile cases. "People used to worry about getting on Page Six (the gossip page of the New York Post.) But this? It brings the concept of humiliation to a whole new level."
In a tearful and furious YouTube video with close to 150,000 hits to date, former actress and playwright ("Bonkers") Tricia Walsh-Smith lashes out against her husband, Philip Smith, president of the Shubert Organization, the largest theater owner on Broadway.
She goes through their wedding album on camera, describing family members as "bad" or "evil" or "nasty," and talks about how her husband is allegedly trying to evict her from their luxury apartment. She also makes embarrassing claims regarding their intimate life, and then calls his office on camera to repeat those claims to a stunned assistant.
Famed divorce attorney Raoul Felder, called for comment on the video, termed the whole thing "funny, but there’s also sadness. This is a victim who is holding her head up. I think she comes off well."
Then again, Felder allowed that he is now representing Walsh-Smith — though he wasn’t when she made the YouTube video.
As for Smith, his office said he had no comment and his lawyers said they didn’t, either — "other than that we’re kind of appalled."
"I don’t think it’s the kind of thing people should be doing, and it’s the kind of thing judges frown upon," said Norman Sheresky, a partner in the matrimonial law firm Sheresky Aronson Mayesfsky & Sloan, which Walsh-Smith mentions in her video. Asked if he had ever seen a spouse use YouTube to fire a salvo in a divorce battle, Sherefsky replied, "Jamais de la vie." (Translation: Never.)
Felder explained that his client was "acting out of passion." He also called the prenuptial agreement she’d signed with her husband, who is a quarter-century older than her, "stupid."
So why did his client sign? "Why do women sign these things? Love is blind, and sometimes it is deaf and dumb, too," Felder said. The video, he added, was the act of a powerless person, and "revolutions are made by powerless people."
Does that mean divorce-by-YouTube is a true revolution? Rabin, the matrimonial lawyer, sure hopes not.
For one thing, she says, this could come back to haunt Walsh-Smith. "Judges make decisions partly on (a person’s) judgment," she says. "She could hurt herself with this." Not to mention the threat of a defamation case from the other side.
More broadly, she asks, where does it end? "Over the last few years we’ve had to deal with emails getting into the press, emails that nobody thought would end up as Exhibit A. But throwing your secrets onto YouTube for the whole world to see — and comment on! That brings it to a whole new level."
Or, in Felder’s words: "There’s no such thing as a private life anymore."
SOURCE: MSNBC.com in an AP story by Jocelyn Noveck