Social Media and Divorce
There are innumerable factors that can affect your interests upon divorce – including the obvious ones (child custody, distribution of assets, alimony) – and the not-so-obvious ones, like the impact social media can have on both the proceedings and your ultimate recovery.
With the availability and widespread use of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and others today, it’s surprising how few people consider these outlets to have an actual and substantial impact on something as important as equitable division of assets in divorce. Here are a few things we suggest NOT to do on your Facebook when divorce is about to occur, pending, and in the process. Some considerations are to protect people’s feelings during this difficult time, and others could affect your life in a legal way.
1) Do NOT choose a social media outlet as a means of telling your spouse you want a divorce.
This should go without saying, and is more on a personal note than of any legal significance. The courts will not care how you chose to end your relationship, and since the vast majority of divorces today are no-fault (based on incompatibility rather than adultery, abuse, or other spousal misconduct), evidence such as this is completely irrelevant. However, changing your Facebook status from “Married” to “Single” without first having a conversation with your spouse will NOT make any part of this process easier for anyone involved. So if you are in any way considering doing this – don’t.
Another consideration here is whether to post about your separation after divorce is final or the separation has occurred, that’s a personal call. One thing to ALWAYS keep in mind is whether or not your children have access to your Facebook – be sure to consider them, their feelings, and the potential impact your posts could have in ANY post they may have access to. You should always put your children’s feelings first, and social media is certainly not an exception.
2) Carefully consider the contents of any post you choose to make (don’t bad-mouth your ex!) – and who may be able to see it.
Divorce is an emotional time for everyone involved – no matter who is leaving who or under what circumstances. But, just as you should not criticize or “badmouth” your spouse to your children, you should be equally tight-lipped when it comes to social media, especially if any allegations you make are untrue (lying about your spouse on a public forum could subject you to liability for defamation, aside from hurting your credibility throughout the proceedings). Not to mention that getting online and ranting and raving about what a terrible person your ex is on a regular basis will likely be brought up BY your ex in court as evidence of your “instability” or other suggestions of mental illness that could be used against you to request psychological evaluations or reduced time with your children. It’s much better (though oftentimes more difficult) to “take the high road” and keep your venomous (although admittedly valid) feelings to yourself.
Additionally, you may think this information would be difficult for your spouse to acquire – but think again. Regardless of the length of almost any marriage, you and your spouse will have friends that overlap. Unless they were YOUR close friend before and throughout the marriage, do not underestimate the value of gossip or the potential disloyalty of people you think you know well. Anyone who knows both you and your spouse is likely to “report back” the disparaging remarks you make about your ex, and fueling the fire is never a good idea.
3) Be wary of posting locations and activities.
You’re in the process of divorce, which has a strong tendency to lead to one thing in particular: alcohol. Whether you’re commiserating over the end of a relationship you cherished or celebrating over a much-needed separation, publicly posting which bars you’re frequenting on a nightly basis is a BIG mistake. These type of posts can support allegations of alcohol abuse, and don’t think for a second that your spouse will leave the kid gloves on and ignore such posts, especially if a custody battle is underway. Anything to make you look like an unfit parent CAN and WILL be thrown back in your face in front of the judge. Although I’m in no way discouraging finding healthy or fun outlets for your grief or newfound freedom, posting pictures of you doing body shots off your coworkers on a Tuesday night is generally NOT the way to go.
4) Watch the timing of certain posts – it could affect arguments over child custody.
So it’s your weekend with the kids – finally – but now that you know they’re not in your ex’s seemingly negligent care and your mom really misses them and wants to babysit, do NOT broadcast this information online. Although it is usually perfectly acceptable to leave a child in the care of a close family member during custodial visits, don’t lie and say you spent “every minute of the weekend” with your child when in fact you were out partying with your friends – especially if you tagged yourself and all your friends in Bricktown on Saturday night. This is an easy way for your ex to show the Court you are a liar, for one, but that you also do not value what little time you may have with your child. So although I’m sure you’ve had plans for your friend’s big birthday party for months (and by no means should you cancel all outside plans if you have a reliable guardian for your children), there’s no need to relay this information to your 1786 Facebook friends. It may not be fatal to your case, and some judges won’t even care – but is that a risk you really want to take?
5) Don’t broadcast your new relationship to the world – it could have serious consequences on the amount of support a court is willing to award you.
There are many adverse consequences that your new relationship could have on your divorce proceedings – for instance, we have seen the Court deny custody to parents based solely on their new husband/wife (stepmom or stepdad)’s conduct. There is also a provision in most Temporary Orders restraining both parties from bringing new romantic partners around the children for an extended period of time, and breach of that provision won’t do you any favors in this process.
Additionally, even in no-fault divorces, courts do not look kindly on adulterers. If you have children, the last thing you want to do is allow the Court to view you in a negative light.
Finally, if you are requesting any type of support alimony, having a live-in significant other WILL be fatal to your request. Alimony is based on the need of the party requesting such support, and the ability of the other spouse to pay such amount. If the Court discovers that you are already living in a situation with two incomes, it is unlikely to find that you NEED that alimony you’re requesting.
Please NOTE: I am NOT suggesting that you LIE to the Court (or your ex, for that matter) about having a new significant other. That would be committing perjury (which is a crime). The best course of action if you already have a new romantic interest in your life is generally to take things slow – don’t move in together, and don’t get married again until the 6 month period (in Oklahoma) has expired. This will be the best course of action for you and your children – especially because many children have trouble adjusting to the idea of their parent with someone other than their other parent. In the long run, it will benefit you tremendously.
Final note on social media and its potential impacts on divorce: When in doubt, deactivate your account. Losing custody rights and support payments over a silly tweet just isn’t worth it. If you feel like you cannot control your impulses to make posts or are unsure whether your posts could be detrimental – err on the side of posting nothing.
For more advice on divorce in general, or if you haven’t yet found the best divorce lawyers in town, please contact the Law Offices of Lawrence Goodwin today! (405) 605-7771.