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Social Media And Divorce: How It Impacts You, And How To Resist

An Orlando Divorce Attorney on the dangers of careless posting.

Social media and divorce are topics that frequently arise when dealing with marriage and divorce concerns. This article is intended to answer various versions of the following frequently asked questions:

What are (is):

  • the dangers of social media and divorce on marriage and family
  • social media divorce evidence
  • social media increase divorce
  • social media boundaries in marriage

And here are a few more common questions we get asked:

  • How does social media affect divorce?
  • what should you not post on social media for divorce?
  • What do you do with social media after divorce

Nothing is ever really deleted.

Take a moment to consider every post you’ve ever written on social media. Think about how long social media has been ubiquitous, from Myspace and LiveJournal all the way through to Facebook, Vine, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.

Can you even remember what you’ve posted? Because the Internet sure can. As more and more people (including politicians and celebrities) are learning, social media posts can come back to bite you long after you have completely forgotten about posting them.

If you doubt the power of social media, consider the cautionary tales of Paula Deen, Anthony Weiner, “Papa” John Schnatter, and Roseanne Barr, who destroyed their own careers with a single ill-conceived social media post.[1]

Social Media and Divorce Evidence

Social media is also a rapidly growing field of landmines in divorce proceedings. In acrimonious divorces, a single pic, post, or tweet has the propensity to completely upend a case. It can affect property settlements, alimony – even child custody and timesharing. (See my article and YouTube video “Dating During Divorce).

At Morgan Divorce Law Firm, we’ve seen a substantial increase in the use of social media posts entered into evidence in contested divorce trials. In fact, over the last decade, it would be safe to say that social media has been a “game changer” in contested divorce litigation.

A survey of the top divorce lawyers in Orlando reveals that social network evidence – most notably Facebook – has become a primary source when it comes to the revelation of compromising evidence. [2]

While heightened personal scrutiny is an inevitable part of a divorce, social media has upped the stakes and made those “slip pics” far more common. The more acrimonious the separation, the more motivated one spouse might be to “dig up dirt” on the other. Social media has proven to be an incredibly effective way to do that.

Divorce and social media

More Social Media Divorce Evidence

Everything is subject to investigation in a divorce. Your activity on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram – including direct messages (DMs) and Facebook Messenger conversations – can be used against you in a divorce court in any number of ways.

Proving Infidelity

In cases where one partner has alleged specific grounds for the divorce such as infidelity, social media is regularly used as evidence. This includes:

  • Facebook messages,
  • Tagged posts on any platform
  • Instagram and Twitter direct messages (DMs)
  • activity on romance-oriented social media apps such as Tinder, Bumble, Plenty of Fish, or Clover

Any of these can provide evidence of infidelity. Furthermore, many states – including Florida, where Morgan Divorce Law Firm is located – will allow evidence of infidelity to impact alimony or property division awards where it is alleged that a spouse squandered marital assets.

Posts can also potentially impact an otherwise valid pre-nuptial agreement.

A few quick (and disturbing) facts:

  • 1/3 of all legal actions taken in divorce cases will cite an affair conducted or begun online.
  • 66% of divorce attorneys report using Facebook as a principal evidence source.
  • A study in 2014 showed that a 20% increase in Facebook enrollment coincided with a 2-4% increase in divorce rates. [3]

We make no claim to understand whether there is a causal link between social media use and failing marriages, but we have seen firsthand that once a divorce is underway, all of that social media activity could become cannon fodder.

Proving Income or Wealth

We have also seen social media posts used to contradict statements and testimony given by one party. It is not uncommon, for example, for one partner to misrepresent their wealth on social media, which can severely impact child support and alimony rulings.

If you are hoping to receive alimony from your partner, you don’t want photos of luxury cruises and expensive purchases that you independently paid for showing up in court. They will weaken any claim you make with respect to financial need.

Resisting the Lure of Social Media: How To Avoid a Major Mishap

Just How Private are “Private” Social Media Accounts and Posts? Not very, apparently.

First off, most social media is designed to be public, and unless you take steps to ensure privacy, the default settings make it pretty easy for someone to view. For instance, on Twitter, you don’t even need an account to view someone’s public tweets.

Second, even if you delete your posts, it is impossible to determine whether or not they have already been stored or archived (e.g., screen shots) by a third party. It isn’t necessarily easy to find deleted tweets or posts, (unless they’ve been archived by the Wayback Machine [4]) but it is far from impossible.

You should treat all social media posts as if they’re public. Essentially, they are. It’s true that if you post something on Facebook and you change the privacy settings, you can “control” who sees it, but you cannot control what those people do with it.

Once any material has been posted, it’s fair game if any of your social media contacts decide to screen shot it and share it with your spouse or their lawyer.

We’ve had more than a few cases in which a social media “tattle-tale” of some kind – a “frien-emy”, a spurned extramarital partner, etc. – was the culprit.

What Should you Not Post on Social Media for Divorce?

Resisting the Lure of Social Media: How To Avoid a Major Mishap

First, if you’re going through a particularly contentious divorce, you should seek an outlet besides social media through which to air your frustrations. When you’re feeling disgruntled, it can be tempting to express your frustrations publicly or seek the commiseration of your online social circles.

We urge you not to do this. Posting might feel cathartic, but your instant gratification comes with a hefty price tag. We’d like to avoid having to help you explain your social media activity in a court of law.

Here are a few basic rules to live by so that you don’t derail your divorce with your Facebook account.

  1. Tempting as it may be, do not discuss your divorce online. It is possible to be sued for libelous comments if you disparage your ex-spouse on social media, so we urge you not to tell anything that could be construed as a lie. We also suggest not telling any truths, though, because frustrated rants posted to your timeline or feed in a moment of weakness can make you sound unbalanced when read dispassionately aloud by the opposing attorney. And while they may not tell you this, your followers will wonder about your sense of dignity and self-respect.
  1. Avoid random, unnecessary status updates. Even things that seem harmless can hurt your case. Did you get a babysitter for the kids without consulting your spouse and grab a drink with a friend? Did you buy a motorcycle even though you told your soon-to-be ex that money is tight? Social media will betray you. Even checking-in at restaurants can hurt you, if your spouse is attempting to make a case for your excessive recreation or spending habits.
  1. Try not to mix social circles. Divorce is difficult on your friends and family. Many people naturally want to choose sides, and you won’t always know which side someone is on. A friend might even interfere on social media in a misguided attempt to help you “patch things up” before the divorce is finalized. We’ve also seen cases where children bring up their parents’ social media lives in an attempt to influence their own custody hearings. Divorces are rarely amicable, especially where custody of your children is involved.
  1. Avoid sharing your location. Many apps offer location services – sometimes without your explicit request. If your divorce is contested, or your spouse has threatened you with violence, social media can endanger you – in the real world.
  1. Don’t discuss your finances. Don’t publicly rant about your child support payments. Don’t brag about your raise. Don’t post photos of your winning lottery scratch-off. Don’t share a photo of the car you just leased or the luxury watch you just bought, or any other display of means. In a divorce case, this is “lifestyle evidence,” and it can raise questions about whether or not you’ve been honest about your income.
  1. Don’t post pictures with a new significant other, even if you’re separated and have agreed to let each other date. Some of our clients have been separated for months or even years by the time they get around to finalizing their divorce. Even if that’s the case – and even if you believe your relationship with your spouse to be friendly – it is a bad idea to post photos of your new relationship while you’re still technically legally married.Your spouse’s lawyer could attempt to twist that into claims of infidelity, and it could unnecessarily inflame your soon-to-be ex and/or your children.
  1. Don’t share private conversations or screenshots. Doing this calls your character into question, no matter what the screenshots reveal. Even if the other parties in the conversation were being unreasonable, you do yourself no favors by airing dirty laundry. By the same logic, don’t text, email, or message your ex anything you wouldn’t want screenshot and used against you. It’s too easy to tap a button and capture that conversation for posterity.
  1. Never, ever post about your children during divorce proceedings. At all times, keep your children out of it. Posting about your children on social media in a way that could be characterized as irresponsible can upend your entire divorce proceedings and affect your odds of a desirable outcome with regard to custody and child support. Keep your private life as private as possible during this difficult time, and when you need to talk to someone, talk to them. Don’t type to them. Don’t post about them. Don’t talk to the endless void that is social media. And lastly …
  1. If any of this seems difficult, or you’re struggling with temptation, deactivate all of your social media accounts. In this case, the adage “better safe than sorry” applies perfectly. If you’re in any way uncertain about your ability to correctly navigate social media while your divorce case is underway, it is best to remove social media from the equation. You may even find that doing so will improve your life.

What is absolutely certain is that if you’re not using social media, you cannot trip and make a “pic slip,” therefore, it cannot be used against you.

What Should you not Post on Social Media for Divorce?

Keep your mind focused on your case, and on your life once the divorce is finalized.

Good behavior is not without its perks. Confide only in your attorney, your doctor, mental health counselors and therapists, or clergy. You can still find the catharsis you would have been seeking in an emotionally texted post fired off into the depths of Facebook in the middle of the night or after a boozy night out – without any of the risk.

Take the high road. Resist the urge to haul skeletons out of your marital closet and display them for the world to see. Fight the temptation to put on a brave face and use Instagram posts or pithy tweets to convince yourself, your ex, or your social circle that you’re absolutely fine.

If you can manage it, avoid social media altogether. If you cannot – and there are valid reasons that might be – then, we implore you, proceed with caution. The period immediately before your divorce is finalized can be fractious and difficult.

You’ll want to conserve your emotional strength and be at your best. In the opinion of this Orlando divorce attorney, you are better off confining your life to the real, not the virtual, world. Keep it IRL is my best advice!

Feel free to contact us for more information on how social media can impact your divorce, or to schedule a free consultation with Morgan Divorce Law Firm.

Citation references:

[1] BBC, 8 Times Celebrities Messed Up on Social Media. https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-44302767

[2] AAML/PR Newswire, Big Surge in Social Networking Evidence […] https://prn.to/2K6WG1L

[3] CNBC, Social networking linked to divorce, marital unhappiness. https://www.cnbc.com/2014/07/08/social-networking-linked-to-divorce-marital-unhappiness.html

[4] Forbes, How Much of the Internet does the Wayback Machine really archive? https://www.forbes.com/sites/kalevleetaru/2015/11/16/how-much-of-the-internet-does-the-wayback-machine-really-archive/#21cd99659446

Andrea Morgan

Andrea is a native Floridian born and raised in Winter Park, Florida. Throughout her career as a divorce attorney, she has handled divorce cases in every county in Central and South Florida. She has recently expanded her firm from Central Florida to also serve Palm Beach County and West Palm Beach. She is a respected divorce lawyer, coach, consultant, author, mediator, and advocate of social change within the Florida court system.Andrea earned her Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola University College of Law, New Orleans and graduated from the University of Central Florida in Orlando with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Legal Studies.She has been certified as a family mediator by the Florida Supreme Court, is a trained collaborative family law attorney, and is a member of the Collaborative Family Law Group of Central Florida; the Collaborative Family Law Professionals of South Florida; and the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals.With over two decades as a trial attorney, Andrea has fine-tuned her understanding of the unique dynamics and challenges families face during restructure. She handles contested family law cases that are litigated in court, but also vigorously encourages uncontested divorce methods as the premier route for the restructuring of families.Andrea advocates divorce mediation, cooperative divorce, and collaborative divorce as the more effective, more respectful, more cost-effective, and more healthful means to divorce, especially when there are children involved.

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