Picture this scene. Sally is in divorce court, and the judge addresses the issue of alimony. Sally makes significantly more money than her spouse, Sam, who has asked the court for alimony. Because their household is now split in two, Sally’s money does not stretch as far as it used to, and she finds it more difficult to make ends meet since separating from Sam.
However, Sally is dating Tom, who has family in Paris. Tom’s family flies them both to France and hosts them for a week-long vacation. Tom posts and tags Sally in many photos of sightseeing, shopping, and dining in fancy French restaurants. Even though Sally changed her privacy settings, a friend of a friend sees the photos and reports back to Sam. Sam tells his lawyer, who digs up the photos online.
So when Sally attempts to tell the judge she cannot afford alimony, Sam’s lawyer confronts her with 45 photos of a recent, lavish trip to Paris. Yes, Sally can attempt to explain away those photos of sipping wine on the French Riviera—but honestly, the damage is done. A photo is worth a thousand words, and such images can sting hard and upset an otherwise straightforward divorce. Now, the judge is likely to think that Sally is understating her ability to support her spouse and may punish her for lying by slapping her with more alimony than expected. What is the bottom line? Be extremely careful about social media when going through a divorce.
Social Media and Divorce
We live in an age like never before. Technology allows us to do many things we could never do before, like sharing our thoughts and lives with hundreds or even thousands of people all over the globe with the simple click of a mouse. But as with all human advancements, technology can have its drawbacks. One drawback is that your opponent can use social media posts, direct messages, text messages, and emails as evidence against you in any legal proceeding. This type of evidence is now used in court every day. And it has toppled all types of cases.
For instance, plaintiffs can destroy personal injury lawsuits by claiming severe physical injury and then posting photos of themselves horseback riding, swimming, or enjoying any physical activity. Criminal defense strategies can come unraveled by a single image that casts the defendant in a bad light. And divorces can be upended the same way. So if you see divorce on the horizon or are in the middle of one right now, you must be extremely wary of what you put out there for all the world to see.
Divorce and Social Media Etiquette
Most non-lawyers cannot see how a seemingly innocent post can hurt them in legal proceedings. So allow us to lay out some rules you should follow regarding social media and divorce.
Change Passwords or Open New Accounts
Many couples share computers and passwords. Therefore, the safest course of action is to change ALL passwords or simply open new accounts. It may seem extreme, but privacy is a key concern when going through a divorce. Take the time to ensure that your spouse has zero access to your social media, text, and email accounts.
Do Not Discuss Your Divorce Publicly
You must not discuss your divorce openly in any public forum. Openly discussing your divorce, your dissatisfaction with your spouse, your kids, or your financial situation can hurt your case more than you might think. So keep it to yourself, or talk to a close friend in person if you need to vent.
Never Post Without Doing This First
Never, ever post anything to social media without stopping yourself for a moment. During this moment ask yourself, Is this something that I would be comfortable sending directly to the judge in my divorce case? If the answer is no, then do not post it.
Attorneys can use almost anything to cast you in a bad light in court. Posting photos of simply having a fun night out? Your spouse can use photos of you dating or partying to make you look like an unfit parent. This is especially true if they can pinpoint the day to be one where you had custody of your kids. Thinking of posting an innocent photo of a spa day you took with a friend? This may make it tough to argue that you desperately need financial support. Your spouse’s lawyer can take any image or statement out of context to make you look bad. So the best advice is to refrain from posting anything at all. But if you must, be sure to ask yourself this question first.
Do Not Badmouth Your Spouse
Badmouthing your spouse is not only bad form; it can harm your divorce. For instance, if you badmouth your spouse on social media, how will a judge know that you can refrain from badmouthing them in front of your kids? Venting may make you feel good temporarily, but ranting on social media is never a good idea.
Do Not Change Status to Single Until Divorce is Final
Changing your status to single can upset your spouse and turn an otherwise amicable divorce into a contentious one. Either keep your status the same until your divorce is final or discuss how you both should handle this together, so there are no surprises.
If You Cannot Resist, Shut It Down
If you do not think you can resist the urge to vent or post photos until your divorce is over, then think about suspending or even deleting your accounts. And do it right away. Deleting posts or accounts after a judge asks to see them is a gigantic no-no. So honestly assess your ability to refrain from posting before the process even starts or as quickly as possible afterward.
Let Our Lawyers Fight for You
The experienced divorce legal team at Batson Nolan PLC can guide you through your divorce. We know what types of posts, texts, and emails can come back to haunt you before, during, and after your divorce. So don’t leave things up to chance. Call us today or contact us online to set up a free initial consultation. Let us guide you through the ins and outs of your divorce, help you refrain from making critical mistakes, and protect your rights every step of the way.