Couple ordered to swap Facebook passwords in divorce case

Summary:A judge has ordered Stephen Gallion and Courtney Gallion to hand over their Facebook passwords to each others lawyers. The ruling means they have to violate Facebook's terms of service.

New London District Superior Court Judge Kenneth Shluger recently ordered a divorcing couple to hand over their "Facebook and dating website passwords" to each other's lawyers. He imposed the ruling on Stephen Gallion and Courtney Gallion on September 29.

Interestingly, the ruling forces both parties to violate Facebook's terms of service. The service's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities explicitly talks about passwords in the eight point of the fourth section "Registration and Account Security":

You will not share your password, (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.

The issue was first raised when Stephen found some information on the couple's computer regarding her feelings toward their children and her ability to take care of them, according to Forbes. Stephen told his lawyer, Gary Traystman, who believed the online evidence would help his client during the discovery process of the divorce case, which will involve custody of the couple's children.

During a deposition, Traystman asked Courtney for the passwords to her Facebook account as well as her online dating accounts on EHarmony and Match.  Courtney initially refused, but on her own lawyer's advice, she eventually handed over the passwords. She then reportedly texted a friend and asked him or her to change said passwords and delete some of her messages. Since the destruction of evidence is illegal, Traystman went to the judge and asked him to issue an injunction, so that she would not delete be able to delete any further material and so the attorneys could exchange passwords for both spouses.

Shluger said neither of the Gallions will be allowed to view the other's accounts on the aforementioned websites. He ordered the handover and the next day said: "Neither party shall visit the website of the other's social network and post messages purporting to be the other." Despite these restrictions, this judgment seems to have crossed a line, at least in my opinion.

As I've reported in the past, the evidence from social networking sites is becoming more and more useful in lawsuits and divorces. That being said, attorneys typically acquire such material by visiting someone's profile directly or asking that they turn over evidence from their account. This is the first time I'm hearing of lawyers being given the right to sign into a Facebook account belonging to the opposing party.

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Topics: Social Enterprise

About

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years, he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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