Unwritten Rules for Social Media Use During a Divorce

Given the universal proliferation of social media,  the interactions that take place on these platforms can heavily impact the outcome of a divorce case. Couples going through a divorce are encouraged to become familiar with proper social media etiquette and best practices to avoid any harmful results caused by social media blunders.

How Can Social Media Be Damaging?

Social media has become more  popular over the years, with numerous platforms available to all ages. Today, it’s practically considered unusual if someone doesn’t have at least one social media account. Before social media’s enormous following, couples going through a divorce thought posts and comments could take place on social media without it affecting the outcome of the case – assuming some false sense of privacy.  This mentality can negatively impact a divorce case for many reasons.

Let’s say one spouse claims they can’t afford to pay spousal maintenance fees, but shortly after, photos are posted of a fancy car or costly vacation – these social media posts can be utilized against the spouse in court.   Or, if both parties are fighting for child custody, and one spouse   is tagged in photos displaying drinking, partying, and frequenting nightclubs and bars – these social media posts don’t depict a positive parenting image and thus may give  the other spouse leverage  in a custody dispute.  FInally, if a spouse discovers the other partner has posted negative commentary regarding any aspect of the case or relationship, this can easily turn into a legal nightmare and affect the timeliness of  a positive resolution.  

Update Passwords

Married couples usually share most aspects of their relationship  with one another, if not everything. Many choose to utilize a family email address or Facebook page, meaning both parties typically know passwords to phones, email, and social media accounts. If a spouse doesn’t know these passwords, they’re likely saved on a computer to avoid having to log in each time. This means anyone with access to the computer can easily open an account and view the content. Whether a divorce is a topic of conversation or the process has already started, it’s important to change any and all passwords immediately with  a strong alternative password. This will lower the likelihood of an ex-spouse accessing accounts and utilizing discovered content in court. It’s also encouraged to unlink text messages and exit the family cloud account if applicable, so text messages aren’t easily accessible, and the “Find My Friend” function cannot be used to track movements.

Separate Email and Cell Phone Accounts

Like sharing passwords, married couples often share email accounts and are on the same cell phone plan. It’s recommended for each spouse to get entirely new email accounts and transition onto individual cell phone plans. These actions are worthwhile for many reasons –  from controlling passwords to utilizing email to communicate with a divorce attorney. An ex-spouse could easily hack into the other’s email account if the password can’t be changed, and it’s best to keep communications regarding the divorce private from work and other outside sources. Email accounts are free, and getting a new one is a priority. Additionally, transitioning onto an individual cell phone plan can be costly, but this eliminates the likelihood of an ex-spouse tracking movements or monitoring text messages.

Avoid Bad Mouthing a Former Spouse

When going through a divorce, all frustrations must be kept off social media no matter the severity. The divorce process is already an emotional time for both spouses, and sharing personal information can raise tensions even higher. Should frustrations be vented on social media, an ex-spouse can easily use this against the other in court. While posting on social media is convenient and quick, it’s best to meet up with a friend or family member in person if venting needs to occur. Settling a divorce and being reasonable throughout the process is a priority, so both spouses can easily move forward with their new way of life.

Monitor Tags, Posts, and Photos

Social media can be annoying, especially when friends and family members can tag another unwillingly. It’s recommended to change social media settings, so all tags, posts, and photos can be reviewed before appearing on the user’s timeline. This feature allows the user to deny the request should the content be harmful, concerning, or unnecessary. Whether it’s photos of a party with alcohol or a family member posting a rant about an ex-spouse, each of these instances can damage the settlement and outcome of a divorce case. Like being mindful of what oneself is  posting, it’s just as important to check   what  other individuals are posting about the user.

Be Mindful

It’s incredibly important to stay level headed and remain mindful of the big picture during a divorce. Emotions are high, and one or both spouses will likely be angry or place blame on the other. While these feelings are normal, it’s best to consider how social media posts may be interpreted. It may be tempting to create a post complaining about the separation or criticizing the ex-spouse, but it’s highly recommended to avoid this. It doesn’t stop there. Passive-aggressive posts can also be detrimental to the case, such as sharing an inspirational quote with double meaning. Below are a few questions that are important to consider should each spouse remain on social media through the divorce:

  • What does this post say about ___?
  • What does this post say or not say about the ex?

Social media posts aren’t the only thing couples going through a divorce should be concerned about. Emails and text messages can also be misinterpreted. Whether a spouse is upset that children were brought back late or one party has found a new significant other, it’s vital to remain collected in these interactions as a profanity-laced email or text can quickly be recovered at any time. Be conscious of every action and take time to double and triple check if a post, email, or text is appropriate.

Friends Can’t Be Spies

It’s not uncommon for a married couple to have the same friend group. This means that couples are likely to have mutual friends on social media platforms, even if they’re no longer connected. Couples going through a divorce should make it a point not to ask friends for information about what the other spouse is posting, as this can be damaging to their own positive relationship with the ex-spouse. Continuously monitoring what an ex-spouse is doing on social media can not only be damaging to friendships but will prevent the likelihood of healing and moving on.

Clean Social Media Is a Priority

It’s a given that couples going through a divorce need to be careful on social media, especially if an amicable divorce is desired. Whether a spouse has one social media account or multiple, it’s encouraged to become familiar with divorce social media etiquette and best practices or make the decision to shut down accounts altogether. Divorce is already an emotional time for all involved, and falling victim to a social media mistake can make it even more stressful. Learn how to clean up personal social media accounts through various online resources and consult with a divorce attorney to ensure proper moves are being taken today.

This article contains general legal information and does not provide legal advice. For legal advice, please contact M. Sue Wilson Law Offices directly.