Just like drinking and driving, social media and divorce simply don’t mix!
The problem of course is that even though most people can figure out that posting their dirty divorce laundry on the internet is a really bad idea, sometimes divorce clouds their better judgment. Or, they mistakenly think that what they post “just for their ‘friends’” will stay among their friends. (HINT: Don’t count on it!)
Too many people believe that, just like the tapes in Mission Impossible, what they post on social media will somehow self-destruct whenever they push a button. (It won’t.)
Or, in a moment of anger, rage, or alcohol-induced recklessness, they think they don’t care if their ex sees what they’re doing. (Or, at least they don’t care until the next morning when the proverbial “doo-doo” hits the fan!)
Unfortunately, when it comes to social media and divorce, it’s not just your ex that sees what you’re doing. The whole world sees it! (Okay, maybe not the whole world. But with over 2.3 billion monthly Facebook users, it may as well be the whole world!)
If you’ve ever found yourself wondering whether being on social media while you’re going through a divorce can hurt you, the answer is simple.
Yes. It can.
The Perils of Social Media and Divorce
Human beings are social creatures. We WANT to connect with each other. We want to share. Most of all, we want to know that we’re not alone – especially when we’re down and feel like life is kicking us in the teeth.
The problem is that connecting and sharing on social media while you’re going through a divorce can be one of the biggest divorce mistakes you’ll ever make.
Why? It’s like the traditional police warning goes: “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”
One of the biggest challenges with proving anything in divorce is that, nine times out of ten, the only “proof” you can find is what lawyers call “he said/she said” evidence. Both parties simply SAY that the other one said or did something, but they can’t provide any independent proof of anything. Hearsay evidence like that is of questionable value. The judge knows that anyone can make self-serving statements whenever it benefits them to do so.
Social media changes all that.
When you post incriminating pictures on Facebook, or make an off-color tweet on Twitter, or record a rant against your ex on Snapchat, you are literally creating evidence that can be used against you in your divorce.
Plus, what makes using social media while you’re going through a divorce even more dangerous is that it’s not just what YOU say that can be used against you. What your “friends” say can hurt you just as much!
Not Everybody is Your “Friend” on Social Media
It goes without saying that not everyone who is your “friend” or follower on social media actually cares about you. Many of your social media “friends” would have no problem sharing posts with your ex that you would rather not have him/her see.
But, even when your “friends” are really your friends, they can inadvertently post things about you that can end up hurting you in your divorce.
For example, that picture of you and your buddies throwing back a few beers at the football game might help convince a judge that you drink too much. Maybe you shouldn’t have overnight visits with your kids.
The picture of you with your high school sweetheart’s arms around you at your class reunion could easily get mistaken for meaning more than it does. That’s especially true if ten of your friends have also posted similar pictures on Facebook and tagged you in all of them.
It can also be a problem when your “friend” shares something with his/her friend. Then that person shares it with his/her friend. Then the next thing you know, your ex is calling you screaming about your Facebook post!
The bottom line is that, even in the best of circumstances, things get taken out of context in divorce. Trust and communication between spouses is pretty much non-existent. Throw social media and divorce in the mix together, and it’s not hard to create a divorce that’s uglier than The War of the Roses.
Social Media is NOT Private!
It doesn’t matter how tightly you adjust the privacy settings on your social media accounts. Social media is part of the internet. The internet is, by definition, an interconnected web of communication that spans the world.
The internet is NOT private. Neither is social media.
Twenty years ago, you might have been able to argue to a judge that your ex shouldn’t be able to use your social posts against you because you blocked him/her from seeing them. But that argument just won’t fly any more.
It is now well-settled that when you post something on social media for others to see, it is neither privileged nor private! That means that anything you post on social media can be used against you in your divorce.
(By the way, if you think that your spouse AND his/her lawyer are not searching your social media accounts for divorce evidence – think again! If your divorce is amicable, your social media postings may not be an issue. But if it’s not, just remember: lawyers use social media too!)
The smartest thing you can do, then, is to stay off social media while you’re going through a divorce!
But, if you have to be on social media for your job, or if the mere thought of quitting social media makes your palms start to sweat, take heart! There are a few steps you can take that will help prevent social media from becoming an issue in your divorce.
10 Things to Avoid Posting on Social Media During Divorce
Every divorce is different. That’s why making a complete list of everything you should NOT post on social media when you’re going through a divorce is impossible. At the same time, there are some things that no divorcing person should ever post on the internet.
Anything that you wouldn’t want a judge, the lawyers, your spouse, or your grandmother, to see.
When posting anything on social media, you MUST assume that the whole world will see it. What’s more, you’ve also got to assume that whatever you post will be taken out of context. So if there is ANY way that that picture of you, your friends or your kids could make you look bad – don’t post it! (TIP: You can text grandma the pictures of your kids! Or, better yet, mail her prints! I promise, it will make her day!) It also goes without saying that you should watch what you write! Always be kind, and avoid talking about your divorce at all!
Anything that shows bad parenting behavior.
Even if you don’t get drunk, do drugs, or throw wild parties all the time, if, in a weak moment, you happen to have a few too many Moscow mules and someone snaps a picture of you, that picture can be used against you in a custody battle. (Sorry!) So not only do you want to NOT share any picture of you engaging in any kind of “bad parenting behavior,” you also want to avoid being in a situation where any kind of incriminating picture could even be taken. (NOTE: This also applies to your new boyfriend/girlfriend too! If they are going to be around your kids during or after your divorce, what they do on social media matters can also be used in a custody battle against you!)
Anything that shows bad parenting.
Depending on who your spouse is, avoiding “bad parenting” posts can be tricky. For example, if your spouse thinks your kids should only eat organic food, and s/he spots a Facebook picture of your kid at McDonalds with you, that could be a problem. While most judges would agree that even good parents can disagree about what kind of food their kids should eat, that kind of a post can send your spouse skyrocketing to Pluto. That, in turn, will make your life, and your divorce, way more miserable. Remember, if you’re in the middle of a contested custody battle, posting ANYTHING about your kids can be risky.
Anything that shows you’re not the parent you claim to be.
These days, social media encompasses more than Facebook and Twitter. It also includes things like dating apps. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with using dating apps, using them during your divorce can be dangerous! That’s especially true if you happen to “stretch the truth” a bit in your dating profile. For example, claiming to be “single with no kids” on a dating app can seriously hurt your case for getting equal parenting time.
Posts showing that you have a boyfriend/girlfriend.
Even though every state currently has “no fault” divorce laws, in some states, evidence of infidelity can hurt your claim for spousal support/alimony. Even in states where your dating life doesn’t directly affect your ability to get spousal support, posting happy pictures of you and your new squeeze on social media can still cause you problems. Pictures of the two of you at expensive restaurants or on beautiful vacations can support your spouse’s claim for “dissipation.” (Dissipation is using marital money for a non-marital purpose.) Even if dissipation is not an issue in your divorce, posting pictures of your new love on social media only rubs salt in your spouse’s wounds. When your spouse is spitting mad, s/he is not going to agree to anything. That in turn makes your divorce take longer and cost more.
Any posts where you badmouth your ex.
Badmouthing your ex hurts your kids. Judges know that. They don’t like it. They want kids to have a relationship with both of their parents. If you are talking badly about your ex (especially to the kids!), that can hurt you big time in a custody battle. It doesn’t matter that your trash talk is on social media and your kids are too young to be on social media. It doesn’t take a huge leap in logic to believe that if you’re slamming your ex on social media, you’re probably not talking kindly about him/her to the kids either.
Anything that puts your mental health in question.
No one is at their best when going through a divorce. It’s normal to be depressed, anxious, and angry. But when you post about your struggles to your “friends” those posts can be used to make a case that you’re mentally or emotionally unstable. That can have a devastating effect, not only on custody, but also on your ability to even spend time with your kids. When you’re tempted to share anything that’s less than flattering about you or your life during a divorce, talk to your friends. Talk to your therapist. But stay off the internet! (It’s also not even a good idea to text or email anyone about your struggles. Keep your conversations live and in person.)
Anything that shows you CAN get a job or make more money.
While LinkedIn is not the first social media platform that people think about using against their ex in a divorce, just like Facebook, it can provide a virtual treasure trove of information. For example, when you update your LinkedIn profile to announce that you’ve gotten a better job, a different job, or a promotion, that also announces to your spouse that you may need to pay more child support. If you don’t have a job, your profile can provide evidence that your earning capacity is much greater than what you claim because of your skills and experience.
Anything that shows you violating a court order.
Court orders are not suggestions. They are commands from the court to do or not do a certain thing. If the judge has ordered you NOT to talk about your divorce to your kids, and you post something on social media about your divorce, you may have just violated the judge’s order. If your kids are still super young, of course, you may be okay. But, if they’re old enough to read, and they know how to work a computer (which is pretty much EVERY kid these days!) you must assume they can see what you post. The bottom line is that, unless you want to be held in contempt of court, avoid posting ANYTHING that could show you doing something that a judge told you not to do!
Anything that shows you have more money than you claim.
Posting pictures of yourself on tropical vacations, or standing next to a brand new car, can seriously damage your claims that you’re broke. It doesn’t matter that this was the first vacation you’ve taken in ten years and your parents paid for it. That’s NOT how it’s going to look (or play out!) in court! If you really don’t have any money, then don’t post pictures on social media that make it look like you do. (Although if you DO have money and you’re hiding it, go ahead and share whatever you want on social media! You deserve what you get!)
BONUS TIP: Don’t post anything that could put your credibility in question.
If you are not being 100% honest about EVERYTHING in your divorce, be careful about what you put on social media or the internet. For example, if you tell your spouse you’ve sold your boat, and a month later your best friend posts a picture of him and your boat on social media with the caption “Just chillin’ on my best friend’s boat!” you’ve got a problem! The same thing is true if you use Craig’s list to sell personal property that you claim is worthless. If you’re listing that dining room set for sale for $1000 on the internet but you’ve given a deposition stating that it’s worthless, you just impeached yourself!
BONUS TIP #2: Change ALL of your passwords. Now.
If your spouse has (or can guess) your passwords, then s/he will have access to everything you post all the time. That’s not what you want. So change your passwords asap! When you do, make sure you don’t use some version of the same passwords you always use. Your passwords need to be completely different from anything you’ve ever used before.
The Bottom Line About Social Media and Divorce
What’s listed here are just SOME of the ways that using social media while you’re going through a divorce can bite you in the behind. There are many, many more ways that social media can blow up your divorce. Instead of tempting fate, take action now to make sure that your divorce doesn’t turn into a total sh%t show because of your social media postings.
Remember, even if what you post or share doesn’t impact you in court, it can still make negotiating with your spouse a nightmare. That costs you money.
The wisest thing you can do when you’re involved in any kind of a court case is to stay off social media altogether.
But if you can’t do that, then at least remember rule #1: Anything that you wouldn’t want a judge, the lawyers, your spouse, or your grandmother, to see, does NOT belong on social media!