March 07, 2011

Big Brother is Watching Your Facebook Page

by W. Timothy Howes, Esq.

Online social networking has taken off in recent years.  As more and more people establish Facebook accounts, society learns more about the advantages and disadvantages of online social networking.  In New Jersey, the Division of Youth and Family Services has taken to monitoring Facebook pages.  If you are involved with DYFS, what you say on Facebook can and will be used against you.

Facebook does not come with legal instructions or warnings.  Facebook users jump right in, open an account and start publishing.  Many Facebook users believe that because they are posting their status or their photos from the privacy of their personal computer that what they post is private.  Well, it is not.  It may as well be posted on a billboard on the New Jersey Turnpike because Big Brother is watching what you post.  As an experienced DYFS attorney, I have begun to see that DYFS workers monitor Facebook.  From what I have seen, DYFS monitors the Facebook accounts of parents who are caught in the DYFS web. 

DYFS looks at the photos that parents post on their Facebook page.  DYFS workers and supervisors will draw conclusions from those photos.  DYFS will print certain photos, and through their attorneys, DYFS will attempt to introduce those photos in court for a variety of reasons.  Photos are posted on Facebook that in the light of day can be very embarrassing and damaging.  One exmaple:  Photos taken at parties where alcohol is being consumed can cause legal problems for parents whom the court has ordered to abstain from drugs and alcohol.

DYFS will look at your status.  DYFS believes that your Facebook status is a statement made by you that is admissible in court.  DYFS might use your Facebook status in an attempt to prove that you used drugs or alcohol, or that you violated a provision of a court order.  Beware that your status can be used against you, and if used against you, could derail your legitimate efforts to re-unite your family.

This is an emerging area of law.  Howes & Howes has defended parents against DYFS intrusion into their lives for over a decade.  Howes & Howes has developed a strategy to deal with the evidential use of Facebook data by DYFS.  It is better, though, that you don’t do anything that you wouldn’t want the judge to know, and that you don’t post anything on Facebook that you wouldn’t want the judge to see.

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If you need legal help in matters similar to those described in this document, call Howes & Howes for a prompt, confidential consultation.

Howes & Howes

26 Anderson Street

Raritan, New Jersey 08869

Telephone: (908)704-0037

email: [email protected]