Internet Increasingly Used in Divorce Cases

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Internet Increasingly Used in Divorce Cases

Postby AskTheCouch » Tue Jan 26, 2010 6:04 pm

Accusations of inappropriate pictures show how Internet is changing divorces
By AISLING SWIFT


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He alleged she posted Internet videos and photos showing their two babies in inappropriate sexual poses. She accused him of stalking her through repeated text messages, phone calls and e-mails, and of putting some photos on her Facebook page and photo Web sites.

It was Newland vs. Newland, a Collier County hearing that illustrates how the Internet has changed divorce, child custody, child protection, and domestic violence cases. It also underscores that people should think twice about what they put on the Internet.

After a 2½-hour hearing Jan. 12, Collier Circuit Judge Elizabeth Krier ordered Nicole Newland, a Collier elementary school teacher, to remove all her children’s pictures from public view.

“Take all pictures off the Internet,” Krier said of photos and videos posted on YouTube, photo, porn and adult dating Web sites. “I don’t care what they are. Take off all pictures of the children.”

The judge found Nicole Newland “more credible” than her estranged husband and granted her order of protection after she testified he’d repeatedly phoned, text-stalked her, pushed and tackled her. She feared his temper and controlling nature and said he often threatened to “Baker Act” her, which means to have her committed to a mental health center for an evaluation.

But Krier also found Eric Newland’s allegations credible and granted him an order of protection.

“They’re bordering on criminal,” Krier said of the photos and videos of the babies, which included their baby breastfeeding on an adult dating Web site. “... Putting these photos on the Internet is definitely inappropriate.”

Across the nation, lawyers and angry spouses are finding the Internet is a gold mine for evidence in divorce, child custody and protection cases.

“My policy with my clients is: If you’ve got a social networking page, it’s got to go until a case is over,” said Jan M. McCray Flemmons, a Nassau County divorce attorney who has detailed “The Dangers of Social Networking” on her bLAWg. “Nothing good comes of it, it is used against you in some way or it is twisted even if it wasn’t that way on the Internet.”

“We all have those pictures of us as children running around with very little on,” she said. “Now parents are posting them. The world is going to see those photos or that video. It may have been shot in an innocent way, but it allows a sexual predator to view them. Parents will use that against each other.”

“As an attorney, I am Google-mining that information,” she said of searching for opposing spouses’ Internet photos and postings.

***

The state Department of Children and Families removed the toddlers from Nicole Newland’s Golden Gate Estates home after a truck driver found the 3-year-old walking along 43rd Avenue Northeast and Everglades Boulevard, cold and clad in footsie pajamas, the morning of Jan. 2.

Collier County sheriff’s deputies went door-to-door, searching two hours for her parents as her training pants overflowed. Newland told deputies she’d overslept and searched all over for the mildly autistic child who loves to hide, but had never unlocked a door before.

DCF attorney Jana Malen initially said DCF intended to return the girls, ages 3 years and 23 months, to their mother. But after testimony about the photos, a DCF investigator said both parents needed evaluations and the state Guardian ad Litem Program’s attorney, Miguel Kunkel, asked that a guardian be appointed for the toddlers.

The judge agreed it will take time for the Newlands to regain custody and be reunited with the children. “Both parents clearly have judgment issues,” Krier said.

Nicole Newland was arrested and jailed on a child neglect charge Thursday.

At the hearing earlier this month, Nicole Newland testified her husband had been violent, pushed her as she held the baby, whose forehead was injured, and repeatedly broke into her Facebook and online photo accounts until she changed her passwords.

“He was posting things and pretending to be me,” Newland testified during questioning by her attorney, Shayna Kavanaugh. “He was stealing things and posting them on his Facebook to imply he was the better parent.”

During cross-examination by attorney Derek Verderamo, Nicole Newland conceded some were originally joint accounts and others public. Verderamo represents Eric Newland in his domestic violence case.

She denied school officials “demoted” her due to a Facebook posting, calling it a “placement” in maintenance because she wrote about the “hypocrisy of the principal and vice principal.”

Eric Newland testified she had a temper, was angry and violent and hit him first on Oct. 1, when he called 911 to have her “Baker Acted.” Instead, he was arrested and jailed on a battery charge the State Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute.

He denied being violent, but admitted he printed her instant messages listing her daily activities and Googled her to find the children’s photos after their separation.

“It’s a public access account,” Eric Newland told Kavanaugh, who accused him of violating a no-contact order. “... I became aware of nude sexual photos that were online that were public, there for everyone to see.”

He testified he was listed as a friend on her accounts, he received updates about new photos, but she blocked the joint and public accounts after DCF called deputies to investigate his complaint in November. Kavanaugh showed he’d complained to the Child Advocacy Center, but they took no action.

In a YouTube video of his toddlers dancing, Newland testified his wife can be heard telling one to show her buttocks and bend over. The photos and videos are sealed in the court file, but printouts show Newland posted several YouTube videos of her 3-year-old singing Nine Inch Nails’ “Where is Everybody?”

“She seemed to be performing in a sexual manner, dancing on a pole,” Eric Newland testified, adding that his naked daughter’s private parts are “prominently” shown. “My oldest daughter is in various states of nudity and my youngest daughter is breastfeeding on an adult Web site.”

He testified he contacted the Sheriff’s Office, which warned her not to post them on YouTube again, but she did.

Sheriff’s Investigator Scott Rapisarda testified Newland let them search her computer. “Some were clothed, some were unclothed and some were partially clothed,” Rapisarda said. “... It’s inappropriate to post them online, I would say.”

Krier, who ordered supervised visits for both parents at the Child Advocacy Center, cited concern about Newland using Google to search up information on his wife, but said it didn’t violate the no-contact order.

The attorneys declined comment afterward.

***

A 2008 American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers survey shows 79 percent of top divorce attorneys nationwide reported an increase in Internet browser histories being used as evidence, while 44 percent cited an increase in evidence obtained by Spyware programs.

In October, in Watermeir v. Moss, a Tennessee appellate court ruled a man could ask a judge to determine if he fathered a married woman’s baby. The court found the married couple hadn’t legally “remained together.” Evidence included the mother’s Internet dating site postings, where she called herself “separated” or “divorced.”

In September, in Mann v. Department of Family and Protective Services, a Texas appellate court affirmed a ruling that a mother endangered her child, but gave her a chance to regain custody from the state. Evidence included Facebook photos showing her drunk and partying; she’s under legal drinking age.

If court rulings aren’t deterrent enough, numerous Web sites and attorney blogs caution about the pitfalls of online social networking, pointing out attorneys consider the Internet a goldmine of evidence.

Orlando family law attorney Christine Bauer’s blog warns: “I always tell my clients that e-mail, voicemail as well as Facebook and MySpace postings, can all be used against you in a courtroom, so before you post a status on Facebook or Twitter and before you post those pictures of you partying with your friends on MySpace, remember that ... often is used against you in court.”
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Re: Internet Increasingly Used in Divorce Cases

Postby amrusha » Tue Aug 02, 2011 10:45 am

How to file for divorce in Texas without knowing where the spouse is? Marriage was November 2002, Bell County Texas. Lasted 2 months at most. They have not seen or spoken to each other since then. He does not know where to find her for her to sign papers. He also does not live in Texas but in Michigan. What is the proper way to file for a divorce? Can it be done without a lawyer?
amrusha
 
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