A New York judge has made a precedent setting ruling, allowing a Facebook profile to be used in determining the outcome of a child custody case. Prior to the ruling, use of social media profiles was not allowed in such situations.
Westchester County Supreme Court Justice Lawrence Ecker ruled that the father in the case, Anthony DiMartino, could use his ex wife's Facebook page to prove that she has not been caring for the couple's four-year-old male child as much as she has claimed. The Facebook page contains postings of mom Christina Antoine vacationing in various cities such as Boston, and as far away as Milan, Italy.
Legal papers submitted by DiMartino argue "the data will show that it is he, and not she, who has spent the majority of time with the child during the past four years."
DiMartino's lawyer, Gordon Burrows, claims that his client, who is employed as a social worker, has been the boy's primary caregiver. He added that Antoine was not expecting the Facebook page to be allowed as evidence because no such ruling has been made before in a New York court. She claimed the page was private and that she had "unfriended" her ex. Most state courts have not yet allowed similar social media displays in custody cases, although Minnesota law has allowed for them in specific situations.
"The court finds that the time spent by the parties with the child may be relevant and material to its ultimate determination of custody," wrote Judge Ecker in his ruling. Antoine has until Sept. 14 to provide her Facebook login credentials. The ruling will now set a precedent for other cases to include social media postings such as Facebook pages.
An expert in the area of family law, attorney Michael Stutman of law firm Mishcon de Reya, weighed in on the impact of the ruling.
"I think that as they begin to understand what a treasure-trove of data there is, and as they begin to understand the technology behind it ... it gets treated like any other evidence assuming it's reliable," said Stutman.