5 Questions with Christina I. Echeverri: Why Divorce & Electronics Don’t Mix

 

Introducing our KK Q&A series. Over the coming months, look out for monthly Q&A posts with Kluger Kaplan associates, digging in about some of the most interesting parts of their practices. Something special you’re dying to ask an associate or learn more about? Send us a message and we’d be happy to include it.

 

Cell phones don’t seem to leave our hands these days. Amazing new technology, devices and apps have made it so much easier to improve efficiency and stay constantly connected. But there is a negative side to technology that’s become unavoidable. We’ve all been guilty at times of being caught up in the online world and ignoring the real world around us. So, we sat down with Christina I. Echeverri in our family law group to find out about how everyone’s favorite devices have had an impact on the world of divorce.

Cell Phones

1. What role does technology play in divorce cases?

For better or worse, technology has clearly effected almost every aspect of our lives. In the divorce world, however, I see it playing a role in two different ways. There are situations where my clients have chosen to file for divorce as a result of technology, and then there are clients’ divorce cases that are impaired and intensified because of technology.

2. How is that changing divorce proceedings?

Ironically, I’ve found that technology has led to a lack of communication. People are complaining that their spouse isn’t “present” – spending too much time glued to their phone, iPad, Apple Watch or the like, tablet or computer.  It has also become much harder for cheating or deceitful spouses to hide their faults. Social media plays a huge role. Remember, the internet remembers everything and “private” doesn’t always stay private. The biggest problem I’ve come across recently is that spouses are not realizing that when you write something on one device, it can also be seen in other places, and these devices do not always talk to each other. I’ve had two cases recently, where a spouse found incriminating text messages on an Apple Watch that the cheating spouse thought were deleted. Often times we come across one spouse obtaining personal information that spouse did not want the other spouse to have, such as bank or credit card statements, or a list of that spouse’s bank accounts simply because they left the information in plain view on a family computer. In many cases, this information has been instrumental to the spouse who obtained the information and has assisted with the discovery of additional funds or discovery of dissipation of assets during the litigation.

3. What should individuals know about protecting their privacy through technology during a divorce proceeding?

Individuals considering divorce or in the midst of divorce should be overly cautious about keeping private information private. Just as one would avoid case-related discussions within an earshot of the spouse, one should avoid leaving information where a spouse might have access.  Otherwise, you are potentially setting yourself up for a legal battle and giving your spouse either ammunition to file divorce proceedings or to rely on the information in divorce proceedings. There are easy ways to safeguard personal technology – passwords on cellphones and smart watches, ensuring a deleted text message is deleted on all devices (don’t trust them to sync), and a heightened level of care when it comes to protecting private information. Above all else, the safest way to avoid trouble with technology is to keep private communications old-fashioned: face to face or on the phone.

4. Have new technologies effected how attorneys handle divorce cases?

Lawyers have adapted their communication methods just as the rest of the world has, which means sometimes we communicate with our clients through text message. This can become troublesome in divorce cases since divorce is such a sensitive matter, with opponents living such intertwined lives. For example, if a client was planning a divorce and still living in the same house as their spouse, seeing a text message from a divorce lawyer on the client’s phone could be problematic. There is the possibility that the spouse may learn tactics or overhear private conversations, which can create another layer of issues during the divorce proceedings. Hence, we counsel our clients to be wary of the access their spouse may have to their electronic devices, especially email access on family computers (sometimes allowing for automatic login), shared ICloud accounts and syncing devices.

5. What advice would you give a client or potential client regarding technology in their marriage or divorce?

Technology has its drawbacks. With regards to technology in marriages, too many times it becomes a substitute for communication and the marriage takes a downward spiral. My recommendation is to put the phone away, don’t wear a Bluetooth watch, and go back to the old way of communicating with your spouse. Be an active participant in the marriage. With regards to technology and privacy during the marriage or divorce proceedings, I hope it goes without saying, my foremost recommendation is not to cheat in the first place. But if you find yourself in that situation, be thoughtful about protecting private information. If you must communicate via an electronic device, whether it be with your counsel or personal conversations, secure your information by familiarizing yourself with the syncing capabilities of all of your devices and remove automatic login options for emails on your family computer or tablet.

Christina EcheverriChristina Echeverri practices in Kluger Kaplan’s family law group, handling all aspects of divorce, post judgment proceedings, enforcement proceedings, paternity actions and prenuptial and postnuptial agreements.

Step Away From the Computer: Why Divorce and the Internet Don’t Mix

By: Jason Marks, Member

Kluger, Kaplan, Silverman, Katzen & Levine, P.L.

Jason Marks_072 greyIt should come as no surprise by now that content posted on Facebook, Twitter and other online forums is open for the whole world to read.  Nor is it a secret that such public postings are discoverable in the court of law.  For example, at the end of last month, a Manhattan judge ordered Twitter to release the private tweets of an Occupy Wall Street protester in an ongoing criminal investigation, only further underscoring what has become a new trend whereby courts are reluctant to recognize privacy rights when an individual posts his or her thoughts in a public forum.

Most of us have friends who feel it necessary to publicize every detail of their personal lives on Facebook – including taking jabs at their soon-to-be-ex spouses.  But can taking a pop shot at your ex-to-be negatively impact the outcome of your divorce?

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Lessons in Social Media from the Third DCA

By Steve Silverman

Last week, the Third DCA’s opinion in Gulliver Schools, Inc. v. Snay served as a lesson to the Facebook generation to once again think before posting.  The former Gulliver headmaster sued the school for wrongful termination and the parties reached a settlement whereby Snay was to receive $10,000 in back pay, an $80,000 lump sum payment and $60,000 to Snay’s attorney.  As a condition to settlement, Gulliver required a confidentiality provision as to the terms of the settlement.  But just four days after the parties inked the agreement, Gulliver notified Snay that he had breached the agreement based on his daughter’s Facebook post:

“Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver.  Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer.  SUCK IT.”

Gulliver notified Snay that it would pay the attorney’s fees but not Snay’s portion because he had breached the confidentiality provision.  The Third agreed with Gulliver, reversing the trial court and setting a precedent that should make social media users think twice before posting.  Those of us who rely on electronic discovery have been shouting from the rooftops about the dangers of social media use in litigation for many years.  But the result in Snay is one of the first where a litigant has suffered greatly as a result of social media use.  This should serve as a reminder to those who use social media to think before you post.

Facebook “Likes” are Protected Speech

By Steve Silverman

On September 18, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued an opinion in Bland v. Roberts which held that Facebook “likes” are in fact protected speech under the First Amendment.

In the case, Roberts, the Sheriff in Hampton, Virginia, fired several employees after they supported his opposition candidate in a 2009 election.  Roberts prevailed in his reelection and, plaintiffs claim, he fired those employees who supported his adversary.  One of the plaintiffs, Daniel Carter, Jr., claimed that he was terminated for “liking” the Facebook page of Roberts’ adversary.

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A Year of Social Media: A Look Back

By Abbey Kaplan

On July 1, 2012, Kluger Kaplan launched a blog and revamped its social media presence. A year later, I took a few moments to reflect on how the ever-changing landscape of social media has helped our firm grow its business.

Although Kluger Kaplan opened its doors in 2009 as a new firm focusing on complex commercial litigation disputes, our membership is composed primarily of veteran lawyers who began practicing law long before the days of Facebook, Twitter and WestlawNext.  But building the Kluger Kaplan brand was a new experience for many of us who had found legal success through grassroots marketing efforts.

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