Social Media and Divorce: Best Practices

litigationSocial Media and your divorce.

Deciding to divorce someone ..  is often one of the most stressful and life-altering decisions you can make as an adult, even if you and your spouse are able to part ways amicably. That is a big “if,” however, because most divorces are contested divorces – meaning, in most divorces, the spouses cannot come to an agreement about how all of their assets should be split. At that point, the divorce process becomes all the more painful, with attorney fees, court hearings, and so on.

Because of the stress, people often turn to social media for support. On their Facebook page or other social media platform, people can vent their frustrations among their friends and family, or show the world a happy, outgoing side of themselves. It is difficult to minimize your use of social media during a divorce because it can be such an emotionally rewarding outlet, in general, and especially during tough times.

If you are going through a divorce – or any litigation, for that matter – and you are active on a social media platform, remember that anything you say or do can be used against you in court.  

Attorneys and spouses often look through social media accounts, in search of anything that they can use to get an advantage in the divorce proceedings. Even if you try to keep your materials private, these third parties might still gain access through a mutual friend of yours, or by going so far as to create a fake account, “friend” you, and then take extensive documentation of anything and everything they need.

They are not just looking for the obvious things, like photographs of you partying or cursing wildly in the comments section of some inappropriate group. They are also looking to gather information on your assets, any evidence that might suggest infidelity, and any evidence that, in or out of context, would cast doubt on your parenting abilities. They are very experienced, and they often have a talent for artfully turning your own words against you.

Don’t forget that your presence on social media platforms can sometimes be out of your hands. Even if you minimize your use of social media, or delete it altogether, unflattering and legally problematic pictures of you may still end up circulating around on various social media sites if anyone else takes pictures of you partying, drinking, and so on. Divorces are a reliable industry for private investigators, who may follow you and take pictures of you. So, don’t be surprised if pictures of you end up in the wrong hands if you are doing anything inappropriate, even if you trust your friends and they know to be careful with their social media posts about you.

In a nutshell, your best bet is to act conservatively and professionally, both on and off your social media accounts, throughout the duration of your divorce proceeding. Failing to do so might cost you immense amounts of time and money, turn the judge against you, and spare you a lot of embarrassment. You can always communicate through text, phone calls, or in person instead of posting messages on your social media pages that you may come to regret. In fact, your divorce proceeding should give you all the reason in the world to explore your hobbies, read more books, watch more movies, meet with people in real life, and in general log off from the virtual world.  

That said, if you must use social media during your divorce, consider the quick tips below.

  1. Polish Your Social Media Presence – 

    Many social media sites, like Facebook, have a button that you can click to turn every post into a “friends only” post. Consider clicking that button. Consider looking back through every picture and comment you’ve ever made, and start deleting anything that you would not want your judge to see. You may think, “I’ll just block my ex,” but any mutual friends between you would still have full access. Blocking your ex from the get-go may also sour the rapport that you so desperately need if you want to avoid litigating against a spouse with a vendetta.  It’s time to sanitize your social media presence, because anything you have on any social media outlet, including even the comments you make in ostensibly private groups, may end up becoming part of your divorce proceeding. Also, don’t assume that your ownership of a social media or email account is untraceable, simply because you go by an alias on that account. Social Media and your divorce.

  2. Making the Announcement –  

    Boyfriends and girlfriends come and go. But when you’re going through a divorce, sooner or later, the news has to come out somehow. Instead of abruptly changing your profile status, try to first post a brief, dispassionate, joint message about your divorce. If you can take it further, perhaps you and your spouse can attach a silly divorce selfie to the message. With a message like that, you will start off the divorce process on the right foot and perhaps cut down on the mean, spiteful, petty nature that divorce litigation often takes on.

  3. Be Positive – 

    Avoid bashing your spouse, even in private groups. Don’t forget that a future spouse or future employer will likely go through your social media profile to size you up, and the last thing you want them to see if your nasty side. Stay positive. Focus on the good news, wherever it may be. Saying anything rude, unbecoming, mean, and so on may be used as evidence for why you are a bad parent who does not deserve to see his or her child(ren) that often, if at all.

  4. Be Verbal  –  

    If it’s written online, it’s permanent. Even if you can delete something, it may be too late. Screenshots may have been taken. Websites exist that can literally go back in time and show people what was on a website on a certain date. So, avoid committing things to writing. Social Media and your divorce. If you must use social media, use it as a passive consumer, instead of as an active producer of content.

  5. Don’t Overshare – 

    Social Media and your divorce. The day-to-day developments in your divorce case may be interesting to you, but they are probably not interesting to your friends and family. Do you have any friends who post too many updates about their new baby, their dog, or whatever they’re eating today? If you do, then you already know the feeling – it’s annoying to see. In your case, it might also be self-incriminating. Unless you have a law degree, you just don’t know how your words can be used against you, whether they are in their original context, or taken out of context. Oversharing is a sure way to stick your foot in your mouth by saying the wrong thing.

**Please note that the information provided above is meant to be legal information, not legal advice. If you are thinking about divorce or going through a divorce, please consult with an experienced divorce attorney.

tags: |