Social media has become a part of everyday life in our society. Whether you use social media to stay in touch with friends or to run your business, your social media posts could come up during your divorce.
We all know that we should be mindful of our social media usage, and that nothing we post on social media is ever truly private. This is especially true as you prepare for and go through a divorce. It’s crucial to understand that you could possibly be required to provide copies of anything you have posted on social media, regardless of whether you are “friends with” or are “followed by” your spouse.
Everyone going through a termination of their marriage needs a support system. It’s a stressful time, and many people lean on their friends and family to help get them through. Ideally, though, those venting sessions should be private conversations with close friends and family, rather than social media postings. Avoiding social media postings on any topic even tangentially related to your divorce or to your spouse is advisable. This is true even if those social media postings are limited to a group you consider to be your close friends and family.
Think Before You Post
Before you share, post, or comment on anything using a social media platform, consider the following:
- Would I be comfortable reading this aloud to a Judge? Advice we frequently give clients is to pause before clicking “post” or “send,” and ask yourself: would I be comfortable reading this aloud, in a courtroom, to a judge? If not, it’s best not to post. Always remember that when you are going through a divorce, the audience of your social media postings is much broader than just your “friends” list.
- Am I giving the wrong impression? Many people use social media to portray a lifestyle they aspire to, rather than portraying their “reality.” This may seem harmless, but it could end up giving the wrong impression. For example, you might make repeated posts on social media showing that you are out partying with friends several nights a week, with the goal of showing your spouse that you have moved on and that you can still have fun without him or her. However, these posts could be used to support a narrative that you prioritize partying over other family obligations, such as tending to children’s needs or working at your job to your full potential.
- Could this impact my children? What some people forget to consider when they are feeling angry at their spouse is that their social media posts referencing – directly or by implication – their spouse can have a negative impact on the children. For example, if your spouse’s posts insinuate that you are a less than ideal parent in some way, parents of your children’s friends may see the post. Those parents may then be reluctant to allow their children to spend time with yours. There is also the risk that your children may see the social media posts, and if those posts are criticizing one of their parents, this can make the children feel bad about themselves. Remember, children can internalize criticisms about their parents and then feel badly about themselves.
- Am I divulging privileged information? When you are working with an attorney in your divorce process, generally speaking, your communications with your attorney are protected by the attorney-client privilege. This means that, with few exceptions, no one can force you to divulge what you shared with your attorney, or what advice your attorney gave you. If you share any of these private conversations with others, such as your social media friends, you can lose the attorney-client privilege. An example might be that you and your attorney decide on a certain strategy as part of your divorce, and then you share that strategy on a social media post. Even if you are not “friends with” or “followed by” your spouse, anything you post on social media can be obtained by your spouse in a court process.
Not All Social Media Activity Is Bad
This is not to say that all social media use is harmful, even during a divorce. Many people find comfort in a virtual supportive community and connecting with others who might be having similar struggles.
Social media has the unique benefit of allowing you to remain connected to those members of your spouse’s family, if you wish to, after you are divorced. You can continue to share photographs of your children’s milestones with them, and you can continue to see photographs of their families. Without social media, you may otherwise lose touch with these people who were family to you during your marriage.
With all this in mind, we urge clients going through a divorce to be very mindful of their social media usage, and to disconnect from social media altogether if they will be too tempted to make posts they may end up regretting.