Social Media During Divorce Proceedings: 5 Key Do’s and Dont’s
Social media is constantly evolving and with it, so too is the way we communicate and share information. For many people, social media has become an essential part of their lives, connecting them with friends and family all over the world. But what is the relevance of social media during divorce proceedings? Can a former spouse rely upon historical facebook and instagram posts throughout the course of litigation? How does social media play into the process and what should you be aware of?
Here are our top 5 Do’s and Dont’s for using social media wisely during your divorce.
The Role That Social Media Plays During Divorce Proceedings
Social media plays an important role in today’s society, connecting people all over the world and allowing them to communicate and share content freely. However, in providing people with a forum and opportunity to speak freely and openly, social media during divorce proceedings has also become a important issue for all litigants to consider. Everything from facebook posts and comments, pictures uploaded, and even statuses and pages liked may ultimately have an effect on the outcome of your matter.
As an example, I am reminded of a particular story told to me by a former colleague, which I have repeated to numerous clients as a warning in relation to the importance of social media.
In this particular instance, a husband and wife had engaged in prolonged property proceedings seeking to divide their current and future matrimonial assets. The opposing party, being the husband, had maintained that he had only nominal assets and had no form on income. Notwithstanding his asserted impecuniosity, the Wife had spent the previous 6 months collecting numerous individual posts made by the Husband on the Facebook marketplace which evidenced his strong intention to purchase an expensive Toyota Motor Vehicle. In one particular post, the Husband expressly commented that he would need to make the purchase in cash as he was subject to ongoing divorce proceedings.
The husband of course asserted that the posts had been made on behalf of a friend, only to later concede that he had made the posts but that he had no intention of finalising the purchase until after the resolution of his matter. The Court of course expressed doubt in relation to the husband’s explanation and further accepted the liklihood that he had been hiding significant amounts of savings and assets from both the wife and the Court.
This is just a small example of the role that social media plays during divorce proceedings. If you watch enough Court Hearings, you will find countless other examples of party’s having made admissions in relation to the hiding of assets, disclosures of infidelity, and evidence of a party’s inability to refrain from disparaging their former partner throughout the course of litigation.
Additionally, using social media divorce proceedings can make it more difficult for couples to maintain healthy boundaries, with many using sites like Facebook and Twitter to vent about their frustrations or seek emotional support from friends online. Although venting over social media and accumulation of likes may provide emotional support to a party during the proceedings, it may come at a significant cost as you are literally handing your former spouse significant evidence to use against you.
Overall, social media is clearly playing an increasingly significant role in divorce proceedings, and must be taken into consideration by those undergoing this challenging journey.
How to Use Social Media Wisely During a Divorce
When going through a divorce, it is important to consider how you use social media. While social media can be a useful tool for staying in touch with friends and family, it can also be a source of stress and conflict during this delicate time.
Here are our key 5 Do’s of using Social Media During Divorce Proceedings:
1. Do limit the number of posts made by you during the proceedings
Even if the posts are unrelated to your former partner or the ongoing proceedings, it is strongly recommended that you limit your engagement with facebook, twitter, and social media until your matter has finally been determined.
Even if the posts are just generic updates that you intend to only been read by your close family and friends, you can never be certain as to how a particular comment or disclosure may be taken out of context or misconstrued.
Even if your posts are well-written and there is no possibility of them being misinterpreted by the Court, you still should matain a healthy engagement with social media. A user who makes 10-15 separate facebook posts a day updating the world in relation to the eating habits of their cat (another true example), may be looked at unfavourably by the Court, particularly where that party has asserted their inability to find gainful employment for a number of years due to the fact that nobody in their local community were advertising any vacant positions.
2. Do make your social media accounts private
The likelihood that you possess some hidden skill or talent that is just waiting to be discovered by a marketing agency. In reality, the world does not care about your day-to-day social media updates and are not actively searching for your public posts. However, you should assume that aggrieved former partners and aggressive lawyers are actively searching through all of your public posts. In relation to social media during divorce proceedings, it is very common for posts (both recent and historical) to be screenshotted and filed into the ‘maybe we will use it later‘ folder contained within every legal file.
3. Do clean your friends and list of followers
Separation is a perfect excuse to cull the amount of followers that you have on your social media profiles. Even if your account is private, there is a good chance that mutual friends and even the family of your former partner has access to your social media accounts. Even if the removal of friends may cause hurt feelings, it is not worth risking the outcome of your matter. Should you wish to continue using social media during divorce proceedings, it is important to actively monitor and limit those who have access to your pages.
4. Do keep all of your posts, comments, and liked pages reflective of a positive attitude.
As much as you would love to use social media as a forum to vent to your close family and friends, you should always assume that these posts may be dragged out before the Court during the litigation process. Social media during divorce proceedings is very different to social media usage outside of legal proceedings. Although you were simply looking to express your frustration and ask for meaningful advice during a difficult time, your opponent will instead assert that the posts are reflective of a poor mental disposition or significant levels of depression which are contrary to the parental capacity of a mentally-healthy individual.
That is not to say that you should not seek emotional support or therapeutic assistance during the divorce process, however it may be beneficial for you to do so in a more private setting and away from prying eyes.
5. Do assume that everything is being read by everyone, all of the time.
Lastly, it is important for you to adopt the assumption that everything you do on social media (and online in general) is being read by your former partner, their family and friends, their legal representative, and ultimately, the Judge determining your matter.
Even private messages between yourself and close friends have the potential to be disclosed at a later date. There is no guarantee that your close friends are not disclosing the information to their friends or even to your former partner. Moreover, even if you remain on good terms with a friend today does not guarantee that you will continue to be friends at the time that your matter is determined by the Court. Occassionally friendships will end and people will fall out of favour. It is important for you to be mindful of this even when you are communicating with friends and family in a private setting.
Some further key steps to follow when using social media during divorce proceedings include limiting the number of posts that you make about your situation (often, one post is too many), avoiding making any negative or critical comments about your ex-partner, and avoiding situations that could lead to social media harassment or cyberbullying.
By taking these steps, you can use social media wisely and avoid adding any additional stress to an already difficult period in your life, and further increase the possibility that you and your former partner may be able to enter into an amicable parenting agreement.
What Not to Do On Social Media During A Divorce
When going through a divorce, social media is probably not the best place to air your grievances or engage in petty disputes with your former partner (that is why you are paying your lawyer to write expensive letters). Your social media presence is essentially a representation of you. How you choose to act online can reflect your character and affect how others perceive you.
Here are our key 5 Dont’s of using Social Media During Divorce Proceedings:
1. Do not reveal too much information.
You may assume that this tip does not need to be said. However, from personal experience, this tip really does need to be said, and often said repeatedly. Do not reveal too much information, particularly information which may compromise your matter, contradict facts that you have previously disclosed to the Court, or otherwise raise suspicions in relation to your character and credit.
As noted above, an example would include posts seeking to purchase expensive items while simultaneously asserting impecuniosity. Another example may follow an assertion that there was a necessary disruption to the ongoing child custody arrangement due to illness, only to be followed by numerous photographs of you and your child sitting by the beach on a sunny day.
Even if there is a genuine excuse as to why the information posted is not in contradiction to something previously disclosed to the Court, there is no reason why you should subject yourself to additional arguments about trivial issues. Simply, avoid revealing too much information.
2. Do not disparage or harrass your ex-partner on social media
This includes either directly referring to them or indirectly referring to someone who is not them but bears a striking resemblance to them. There is nothing beneficial to achieve in doing this, and you will create headache and problems for you down the track.
The Judge is not going to smile at you or nod in approval, agreeing that your former partner was being unreasonably when they refused to let you have additional time to celebrate your grandmother’s neighbour’s brother’s dog’s birthday. Rather, the Judge is more likely to disapprove of the post and find it demonstrative of a high-conflict parenting arrangement and in which you lack the capacity to appropriately co-parent with your former spouse.
Further, the consequences of posting harrassing and disparagaing content may have significant legal consequences which outlast your family court proceedings. It is best to avoid any posts which may be even remotely resemble harassing communication.
3. Avoid adding friends that you do not know or liking pages from untrustworthy sources.
This one is a little bit unusual but it still good advice to follow when using social media during divorce proceedings. If you receive an invite or friend request from someone unknown to you, generally its a bad idea to accept it. Worst case scenario it may be your former partner or a friend of your former partner seeking access to your private posts. Best case scenario, it is someone unknown to you and who will just spam your facebook wall with genuine ray-ban sunglasses that they are selling for incredibly discounted prices.
Similarly, you should avoid liking or joining pages and groups from unknown and less reputable sources. Although you may unfollow community and group pages at a later date, you really have no control over the content and posts made in that group. Although you may simply be trying to join a community group to meet like-minded people who share your interest in crotechet, you are placing a lot of faith in the good intentions and commonsense of people that are unknown to you. You will be surprised at how quickly a group that has no direct relevance to controversial political discourse can devolve into heated arguments of religion and politics.
Further, you will be surprised at how easily the lax security of group administrators can be compromised and pages followed by your can be re-branded to something unsavoury. While you will likely have a valid explanation in response to the production of a screenshot evidencing your membership to a group supporting child gun rights, where possible, it is best to avoid the issue being raised in the first place.
4. Do not actively stalk or monitor your ex-partner’s social media presence
This may sound contradictory to some of the further tips listed below. However, the use of social media during divorce proceedings should not be relied upon as either a sword or a shield. Being mindful of adverse comments or inferences made against you is one thing. Actively seeking to accumulate evidence against your former partner is another.
Generally, your former partner will already have been counselled on the same advice provided to you and they are unlikely to have made posts of comments which could be relied upon favourably by you. Instead, seeking to screenshot every post made by your former partner, seeking to miscontrue an ambiguous post, or seeking to assert that a post made at 1:00am on a Saturday night is reflective of poor moral values, are all likely to blow up in your face and backfire on you.
5. Do not change how you engage in social media
Although there is a significant amount of fear mongering associated with the use of social media during divorce proceedings, for the overwhelming majority of litigants, it is nothing to be worried about.
Very few parties actively post content or like pages which may have a detrimental effect on the course of legal proceedings. You should not feel anxious or fearful of connecting and sharing with your family and friends. Rather, you should just ensure that all engagement with social media during divorce proceedings is appropriate.
During a difficult time like divorce, it is especially important to be mindful of what you post on social media and avoid public spats or revealing too much about the other party. Instead, focus on taking care of yourself, seeking out help from family and friends as needed, and doing what’s best for your children if applicable.
Even if social media seems like an easy place to vent, it’s ultimately not worth putting your reputation at risk during such an emotional time. Instead, leave social media out of it for your own sanity and well-being.
Tips for Using Social Media to Your Advantage During a Divorce
When going through a divorce, social media can be an incredibly powerful tool to help you manage the process and your emotions. Here are some key tips to keep in mind when using social media during this difficult time.
Firstly, it is important to carefully consider what you post online during a divorce. A period of upheaval and change like this can sometimes lead people to post in anger or frustration, but these posts can often come back to haunt you later on or even be used against you in court. Instead, try to focus on sharing positive and uplifting content that helps you stay balanced and calm during this stressful time.
Secondly, it is essential to remain vigilant about what others post online about you and your divorce. Because social media is so connected and public, it can be easy for false or damaging information about you to spread quickly, so it’s important to proactively thwart any such rumors by taking down any posts that are potentially harmful or clarifying any confusing situations that arise.
Finally, social media can also be a great asset for connecting with other divorcing individuals who may have valuable insights and advice for moving forward. Whether you seek out fellow users who are going through similar circumstances as your own or simply look for helpful content from experts in the field, social media provides a wealth of resources that can make the journey through a divorce just a little bit easier. So don’t hesitate to harness the power of social media during divorce proceedings – with the right approach, it just might help get you through!