As Facebook and other social networking websites continue to grow in popularity, many users are finding that the sites are affecting their lives in ways they never imagined. For example, imagine if you were in a child custody hearing and the opposing attorney suddenly pulled out a photo from your Facebook, or began reading off your recent status updates or messages. That would be quite a shock, to say the least.

But according to family law attorneys in San Jose and throughout the country, the use of Facebook in family court proceedings is becoming somewhat of a norm. Unlike criminal or other civil cases in which judges are fairly strict about what they will allow in discovery, family court judges have thus far been pretty lax about allowing Facebook photos and posts as evidence in family court cases. In fact, some family law firms are even creating new departments for the sole purpose of controlling their clients' social media accounts.

Facebook is primarily used in child custody cases, where parents attempt to use the other parent's online life as evidence that they are not fit to care for the couple's child. For example, photos that seem to depict a parent as a constant partier will obviously hinder his or her attempts to gain custody.

But there are other less obvious ways in which a parent can derail a custody case through social media. Posting negative comments about the other parent, the trial or even the judge can sway the judge's decision, as will any status updates that seem to conflict with statements made in court.

Therefore, we and other family law practitioners would like to share one piece of advice: if you have a pending child custody case, it is best if you simply get off Facebook for the duration of the case.

Source: Law.com, "Facebook has Become a Factor for Pa. Family Law Cases," Ben Present, Jan. 31, 2012