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Risks of Social Media Use During a Divorce
Divorce is an emotional and difficult time. Social media has a tendency to exacerbate heated conversations. When these two merge together, the results can be disastrous for divorce proceedings and both parties involved. Even highly responsible, ethical and “well-adjusted” people make mistakes during the emotional difficulty of divorce.
Social media plays a nuanced, evolving role in legal situations, and the use of social media during proceedings can lead to complications. Whether others are getting involved, spouses are sharing case details, or other private information is being released, disengaging from social media is wise to preserve mental health and insulate the family from collateral damage.
Here are just some of the risks associated with using social media during divorce proceedings.
Everything Posted is Evidence
Yes, everything. It doesn’t matter if you prefer Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or even TikTok, all content you post to the internet before or during your divorce could be used as evidence against you during proceedings. In 2010 the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) released survey results showing “81% of the nation’s top divorce attorneys…have seen an increase in the number of cases using social networking evidence during the past five years.”
If you post something positive, like you and a new partner going on a vacation together, it could be used against you. If you post something negative, like how your spouse is “raking you over the coals” in the divorce, that can also be used against you. For example, in the 2012 custody case B.M. (Mother) v. M.M. (Father), private messages between a mother and a fake MySpace account showed instability in her current marriage and ultimately led to her losing physical custody of her daughter.
If you can, don’t post anything, even if it’s seemingly unrelated to the divorce. In situations like these, it is far safer to remain silent.
Lying is a Huge Risk
If you ever heard, “Honesty is the best policy,” in elementary school, divorce proceedings are an instance where you should take that expression to heart. All it takes is one proven lie on a social media post to severely tarnish your credibility. Just one proven lie adds an air of doubt around everything else you say, no matter how truthful. It would put you at a distinct disadvantage during the proceedings, to say the least, and — if the lies are severe enough — could poise you for future legal woes, like a defamation suit.
Posting Could Jeopardize Custody
When social media is involved, divorce and custody settlements can lean heavily into perception. Maybe you meet your friends once per week for dinner and drinks, but this imagery could portray you in a harsher, more unstable light. While the legal system strives against bias, humans are inherently biased creatures. Just the perception of a parent acting in a risky manner, backed up with images of partying, drinking, or taking part in particular activities, could jeopardize your custody case. Even if it’s posted by a friend or family member, it could still reflect poorly upon you.
You Could Impact Others’ Perceptions of You
If you post for some sort of revenge on social media, it isn’t just your soon-to-be-ex-spouse in the audience. If your children are on social media, or your parents, coworkers, friends, or other relatives, the things you post in the heat of the moment could forever alter the way they perceive you. If they’re called upon to speak to your character, a negative post might put your personal image at risk, even if you regret the post later.
Don’t Delete or Deactivate
After reading this, you may be tempted to eliminate the temptation entirely and delete all your social media posts or accounts. This also creates risk. Every bit of information on your social profiles, including your posts, could be considered evidence during your case.
By deleting the information, you may find yourself in trouble with the courts, and your spouse may have screenshot evidence of the offending content anyway. It’s often best to simply refrain from posting anything additional to your accounts.
The divorce process has become significantly more complicated since the advent of the internet in the 1990s, and especially since the prevalence of social media. As the world becomes more interconnected, remember that anything you share online, from social media to email to an online forum, could create trouble years later, especially when used out of context.
A few final recommendations to consider today if you’re going through a divorce:
- Don’t delete your accounts, but simply remove social media applications from your phone to reduce temptation.
- Log out and turn off email notifications that social media platforms like to use to bring you back to their platform.
- Instead of social media, meet your social needs by spending time with close, trusted friends and family who love you and will support you during this difficult time.
- Consult with sophisticated legal counsel if you have concerns regarding social media and follow that advice to protect yourself and your family.