Couple ordered to swap Facebook passwords in divorce case

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.

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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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Topic: Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

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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15 comments
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  • RE: Couple ordered to swap Facebook passwords in divorce case

    Exactly what line do you consider crossed?
    Teran
  • RE: Couple ordered to swap Facebook passwords in divorce case

    Court order wins, Facebook T&C's lose. It's that simple.

    In theory, FB could suspend the accounts for the violation, then the court could issue a subpoena for the information. Sounds like the judge took the expedient way around, and the parties acquiesced.

    But it brings up an interesting point: can a person be coerced to give up a password? The answer is fairly well-established in criminal cases, but is not always so obvious in civil proceedings where self-incrimination cannot be invoked. And in family court, non-cooperation is often taken into consideration, which is why the woman's attorney probably counseled her into surrendering the password.
    terry flores
  • RE: Couple ordered to swap Facebook passwords in divorce case

    What if you 'forget' your password? lol..
    dtdono0
    • RE: Couple ordered to swap Facebook passwords in divorce case

      @dtdono0 At my age, with all the meds I take, that is not too unlikely a scenario. But then, at my age, after 42 years of marriage, that point is moot.
      thetwonkey
    • If she "forgets" her password .....

      @dtdono0
      .... she can probably forget support and custody as well!
      kd5auq
  • RE: Couple ordered to swap Facebook passwords in divorce case

    This is too funny. God I love all these FB stories. Everyday there is a new one that makes me LOL.
    Bates_
  • The spaghetti test is IF YOU WOULDN'T

    post it on a paper on your front door for all your neighbors to see then why would you post it online for your neighbors and the world to see?? As you can see passwords mean nothing to to the courts, police, etc, if the reasons are there.

    You can't fix STUPID!!! I'm getting so tired of the things people post on social media and then look stunned like deer in headlights when it blows up in their faces. You can't fix stupid.
    wingnut1024
  • RE: Couple ordered to swap Facebook passwords in divorce case

    Joining FB was the worst and biggest mistake of my life, so I quit FB forever last year and have saved myself a whole load of hassle.

    http://www.wikihow.com/Permanently-Delete-a-Facebook-Account
    sip01
  • RE: Couple ordered to swap Facebook passwords in divorce case

    Things are not in her favor since she told her friend to delete some of the messages. That just states you have something to hide. In custody battles it can reach to this point of exchanging passwords because the courts want to be sure they are making the best interest for the children. I agree with wingnut1024..You cannot fix stupid...
    fandango1974
  • RE: Couple ordered to swap Facebook passwords in divorce case

    Nothing is private....in the cloud.
    VRSpock
  • RE: Couple ordered to swap Facebook passwords in divorce case

    Just stupid! But then America is stupid!
    dddd44@...
  • RE: Couple ordered to swap Facebook passwords in divorce case

    I have to wonder what sort of people want to see all the sordid details of a failed marriage! It's bad enough that a couple's marriage vows are "in the toilet" without making
    a circus of it!
    draco vulgaris
  • RE: Couple ordered to swap Facebook passwords in divorce case

    ....exhibitionists looking for privacy .... simply amazing ! !
    da philster
  • No respect for privacy.

    Nothing is private nowadays and people shouldn't put anything on that they want to keep private but it would take some convincing before I would agree with the judge.

    Unless a person is there it's hard to judge things fairly.
    Rick Sos
  • RE: Couple ordered to swap Facebook passwords in divorce case

    I'd have definitely been in contempt. Just like the judge who kicked a breast-feeding woman out of "his" courtroom because HE felt it was inappropriate, this is yet another case of a judge on a power trip. No way is it constitutional to require that website passwords be given to the opponent in a court case. America is a cesspool (spoken solemnly by a no longer proud American.)
    DLiver420