Birmingham AL Collaborative Divorce Law Blog

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Why Social Media May Not Be Your Friend

Guidelines for divorcing in the digital age

For most of us, social media is a daily part of our lives. We love to share everything from images of cute pets to our political rants. Even under the best circumstances, texts, email and social media posts may be misconstrued or taken out of context. But when you’re in the process of divorce, considering what you send —before you post— becomes even more important.

“Going through a divorce always results in heightened levels of personal scrutiny. If you publicly post any contradictions to previously made statements and promises, an estranged spouse will certainly be one of the first people to notice and make use of that evidence,” said Marlene Eskind Moses, former president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML). “As everyone continues to share more and more aspects of their lives on social networking sites, they leave themselves open to much greater examinations of both their public and private lives in these sensitive situations.”[1]

To safeguard yourself and your family, keep in mind the follow guidelines for digital communications. 

1. Never post something on social media that you wouldn’t want a judge to see. 

Although it may seem harmless to share photos of your post-separation vacation on Facebook or other social media sites, it’s important to remember before you post that you can’t control how that information will be perceived by others. If your vacation is at an expensive spot for example, your post could support a spouse’s claim that you are hiding assets.  Likewise, if your post reflects alcohol consumption, it could support a claim of alcohol abuse.

(And please remember: just because you’ve un-friended your soon-to-be-ex, that doesn’t mean he or she won’t know what you’re posting. Mutual friends are often a source of shared information.)

2. Don’t text (or tweet) when angry.

What’s the most common form of divorce evidence? Text messages. Almost all (99%) of the respondents in the AAML’s 2015 survey cited a rising number of text messages being used in cases. Sending off a rant or angry response in the heat of the moment may provide momentary satisfaction, but it’s best to resist the urge to air your grievances in writing.

“Texts are the source of great embarrassment if one spouse keeps texts sent during times of anger or frustration,” writes Judge Michele Lowrance in an article for Family Lawyer magazine. “Likewise, texts sent to children, friends and family members can show a mental state or disposition that contradicts the carefully constructed disposition that has been crafted to appear calm and neutral.”[2]

3. Forgo online dating until the ink is dry.

If you’re separated and feeling lonely, it may be tempting to dip a toe in the online dating pool to test the waters. But even innocent flirtations on sites like Match or Tinder could come back to haunt you if your spouse is trying to build a case against you. And fudging personal details to hide your identity could backfire. For example, identifying yourself as single when you are not, or that you have no children when you do, may be used as evidence against you during the divorce process.[3] Best to wait until your divorce is final to explore e-dating.

When involved in a contentious divorce, it may be in your best interest to stay off Facebook, Twitter and Instagram altogether. If you need to vent frustrations, find an appropriate — and private —alternative, such as talking one-on-one with a good friend, minister, therapist or divorce attorney. Showing restraint and being mindful of your social media interactions during your separation and divorce can help safeguard your interests and will provide you with greater peace of mind.

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