The 3 Golden Rules to Social Media & Divorce
Updated: May 16, 2020
As I anxiously await the reopening of society, I continue to utilize social media to get my fix of what is going on in the world, as well as communicate with family, friends and colleagues. I am certain that I am not alone in this endeavor. The latest news, funny cat videos and a multitude of ornery antics can be found across all social media platforms. During this time, it causes me to reflect upon the awesome power of social media…both on a positive and negative note.
In contemplating one of my areas of concentration, namely divorce, dissolution and custody matters, I wanted to touch base with you all on the negative potential of social media, which can be catastrophic in divorce cases. Frankly put, the wrong tweet, post or rant can cause the
litigation version of a train wreck. So, let’s have a quick discussion to avoid meeting me at the scene of the crash.
While I am considered ancient by my children, I do have a Facebook page. Mind you, it took me years to actually start one, much to the chagrin of my family and friends. Most people, far cooler in the eyes of my kids, have a multitude of social media pages. Because of that, it doesn’t take a huge leap to recognize that many couples going through a divorce have social media accounts. Consequently, these same people need to be extremely careful of what they are posting on social media. Not only can it make you look foolish, but it can also sink your case.
Here’s Golden Rule #1: Never Assume a Post is Private. Ever. Seriously. Ever. (Read this again).
Anything you post on social media is likely to find its way to the opposition, no matter how clever you think you have your privacy settings. And what you post will absolutely be used against you. Count on it.
For example, if you are arguing that you should have custody of your children in your divorce, but find it appropriate to routinely post pictures of yourself drunk at a bar, smoking weed or otherwise partying it up, you need to rethink your strategy. These posts will not depict you as the capable and caring parent that you want the Court to believe that you are. Moreover, an attorney will waste no time in pouncing on social media posts of you acting irresponsibly, especially if alcohol or drugs are involved, and will use them as evidence that you are unfit for custody.
Or if you are arguing that you can’t afford to pay spousal support or child support, but post pictures of yourself on a lavish vacation or post pics of your fancy new expensive purchase, these social media posts can absolutely be used as evidence against you in your divorce case. Social media posts will reveal a person’s spending habits. Be mindful of this fact when deciding whether to post something online.
We’ve all heard the phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, photos posted online can be worth even more. They can also provide a huge amount of evidence against you. In addition to simply showing what is happening, photos are often tagged with the names of people you are with, where the photo was taken, when you were there and other information that can help your spouse’s attorney try to make their case to the detriment of yours.
It’s also wise to remember that if you have children, they may have access to social media sites as well. At the very least, what you post online and say about the other spouse might be seen by your children. It is not fair for the children of divorcing parents to have to get caught up in the anger and stress caused by a divorce. Just think about what you are posting, and if you think it might be controversial, you may want to edit that post before making it public.
Golden Rule #2: If you have to ask whether a post is reasonable, it’s not. Delete it.
Some people may make an ill-informed decision to post a tirade online about their spouse and then delete it, realizing that their emotions may have got the better of them. The problem lies in the fact that despite deleting the post, it is never really gone, nor will it ever be invisible to socially savvy eyes.
To put it plainly, if you are not comfortable with a judge or your spouse’s attorney seeing a post, just take a moment and delete or edit the remark before hitting send. Once a comment or rant is posted, you must understand that no matter your desire, it is out there in the social media universe forever. You’ll never be quite certain that it wasn’t seen, screenshot or going to be used against you. And the time to find out is definitely not at a hearing or trial with the Court.
What may seem like a brilliant rant that puts your spouse in their place, or a clever response to a snarky comment, can and will likely be utilized against you during the divorce proceedings.
Remember that fact, and respond accordingly.
If you are that upset and determined to write something on social media, take a breath. Count to ten. Repeat. As often as necessary, repeat these steps. Avoid making catastrophic mistakes in your divorce case simply because you let your demons shout down your better angels.
Golden Rule #3: Do not discuss your case on social media. Ever. Really. Ever. No. Not even then.
This sounds like a no-brainer to a person when they are letting logic and reason rule their day. I assure you, however, as temperatures begin to rise amidst a frustrating divorce case, the allure of popping off on social media for a rude comment seems like a calming ointment for the soul.
Don’t do it. It’s a trap. The best medicine for the stress and anxiety brought about by a divorce case is social media silence.
This one particularly rings true in all cases: do not discuss your case on social media. If a friend brings it up on your timeline or in a comment, message them privately if you wish to vent.
I know it can be tempting to post those screenshots or ask people's opinions to help validate your own. It can even be reassuring to have friends who have your back and support you give their input on how they feel about the situation, but it is simply not a good idea. In fact, it’s a horrible idea.
Any message, rant, post, comment or otherwise regarding your divorce case should be done privately, if you must. Take a moment, send them a private message, and give yourself the space to have a conversation about your feelings on the matter. This will help you avoid saying nasty comments to score some cheap points with the social media warriors, and allow you to have a meaningful conversation about the issue.
Operating privately will avoid having people screenshot these conversations and provide them for the Courts to evaluate and criticize. Again, do not discuss your divorce over social media. It’s too high a risk, too much of a burden and frankly, provides a tall mountain for your legal counsel to try and overcome while protecting your rights and defending your legal position.
Divorce can be, and usually is, a stressful situation already, without the added nightmare of having to navigate the treacherous waters of the social media universe. Take the social media out of the equation, and help yourself, and allow your legal counsel to better help and serve you. If you have any further questions about social media and divorce, or need additional information on divorce, dissolution or custody, please do not hesitate to contact Law Offices of Kevin C. Cox your local Coshocton attorney.