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Online profiles sometimes feature materially in bankruptcy cases

| Jan 13, 2017 | Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

“You better embrace that social media has permeated the practice of law,” says one law professor at the University of Miami.

Here is what he means by that: In virtually all legal realms, evidence that can factor importantly into a case is increasingly being discovered on the Internet.

Consider family law, for instance. An ex-spouse with custody of the kids claims to be an exemplary parent, but a former partner doubts that and is worried about the children’s welfare. A photo of the alleged parental paragon on Facebook shows him (or her) reveling at a party, surrounded by guns and drugs.

How do you think that will play out when scrutinized by a judge?

Commentators in a recent Wall Street Journal article note that similar import can be attached to online evidence — Twitter, Snapchat, the aforementioned Facebook and other social media platforms — in debt-related matters, most specifically Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

And here’s the central two-pronged point related to that: On some occasions, what is revealed can be proven as true and be flatly damaging to an individual who is seeking bankruptcy protection and seemingly has more personal wealth than what has been declared.

On the other hand, though, a photo of a debtor decked out in pricey-looking jewelry or sitting awash in cash might be deceiving. In the real world, such images have often turned out to be anything but true.

The Journal article notes one case, for example, where the jewels worn by a woman were actually cheap knock-offs. And a picture of rapper 50 Cent “lounging with stacks of cash” that was not disclosed in bankruptcy turned out to provide nothing other than temporary entertainment: the money was fake.

In fact, the Journal notes, what is seen on social media sites is often deceptive and far from being the truth.

Still, so-called “asset hunters” are methodically looking for online evidence in bankruptcy cases that undermines debtors’ claims.

That bears noting, with the increasing involvement of such evidence in debt matters being something that an experienced bankruptcy attorney will assuredly address with a client.

The importance of being discreet when interacting with social media can hardly be overemphasized.