We’ve talked a lot about social media and its various attendant issues as it relates to divorce and custody cases. We’ve talked about issues with Facebook and Snapchat and Twitter and Instagram and even other sources – like crowdfunding, blogging, and online dating sites like Tinder.
Technology is great in so many ways, but, when it comes to divorce and custody cases, technology seems to create as many ways to screw up as it does to succeed. Though it makes communicating and sharing information easier than ever, it can definitely make a divorce more difficult than ever before.
Divorce and social media
If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about how the world has changed since I was a kid, it’s that there’s so much compulsion to share these days. We want to share everything: good, bad, and otherwise. (And, sometimes, our framework for judging what’s good and bad is seriously compromised by the emotions we’re experiencing at that particular moment in time.)
Of course, the more information that’s out there, the more opportunities there are to judge. That happens with our friends (“Oh my gosh, did you SEE?”) and it also happens in divorce and custody cases with attorneys, judges, and guardians ad litem. After all, the very nature of social media sites is that what you share isn’t private; that should be obvious by the fact that you’ve shared it. Publicly. Over the internet. And what you send out into the world digitally can be hard to rein in again.
Judges and Guardians ad litem are looking for reasons to judge you anyway. By sharing too much on social media, you’re essentially giving them ammunition to use against you later. “But,” I can hear you thinking, “what if what I post IS actually good?” Well, that’s certainly a possibility. A photo of you being handed the Nobel Peace Prize would definitely NOT be bad for your divorce or custody case. A photo of you providing vaccinations to underprivileged youth in Ethiopia… Also, probably not bad. But how much of what you’re sharing is really on that kind of level? And, after all, regardless, even in situations where you feel that you’re beyond reproach, there can be a surprising amount of judgment involved. (“Who was watching her children while she was off vaccinating the underprivileged?” “Why on earth would she wear such a short skirt to accept such a prestigious award?”) People can be cruel.
You know what’s hard to judge? Silence.
It doesn’t come naturally, not in this day and age. We share so much of ourselves and our lives without really thinking twice. Unfortunately for you, though, during a divorce and/or custody case, you can’t do much without thinking twice, especially on social media. You might be surprised how many friends or friends of friends would be willing to share what you’ve posted, even if you’re not actually friends with your soon to be ex/child’s father. You might be surprised what the opposing attorney can dig up, no matter how private your settings. You might also be surprised to know that we can request a print up of your ENTIRE Facebook profile in discovery. It’s actually quite easy to download everything you’ve ever shared – including your entire message history – and if it’s requested in discovery, you may find that you HAVE to share it! (Shocking, right?)
So, obviously, be careful what you post on social media. It isn’t private, and it can come back to haunt you later. The best policy? Don’t post. Don’t post anything. Because, really, the only thing that is impossible to judge is nothing at all.
If you do post, though, follow these tips:
1. Request a free copy of our guide to social media during divorce and custody cases.
It’s full of ways that you might be accidentally sabotaging your case without even knowing it. There’s no sense paying a bunch of money for an attorney if you’re going to do things behind the scenes that hurt your case anyway!
If you’re wondering what to do, or can’t help but post, request a copy of our free report and READ IT! It’s full of lots of tips and tricks for navigating a divorce or custody case in the digital age, and it may just help prevent you from making any big mistakes.
2. Be careful with your pictures.
No new boyfriends. No drinking. No pictures behind the wheel. Be careful, too, with exactly what you share about your kids. (Some judges really don’t like pictures of kids on social media. Remember, whatever you post will follow your kids forever! Pictures don’t just go away, and whatever you share, his college admissions board might be looking at in ten or fifteen years!)
Landscapes? Probably fine. But even seemingly innocuous things (like a plate of food) can show a lot about what you’re thinking and doing, and what kind of mother you are. Fast food? Better not share, unless you want a whole host of evidence related to the nutrition decisions you’re making. Seem silly? Well, it is. But if you’re posting, you’re adding fuel to a fire, and providing information that can potentially be used against you later on.
3. Words matter, too. (And it’s hard to infer tone in text!)
It’s hard to tell what you really meant to say, or how you really meant to say it. Trying to be funny? It might just read as snarky. Trying to show excitement? You may come off as gloating. You see? It can be hard to tell.
As hard as you might try, it can be difficult to know exactly how what you say will come across. So your habit of sharing song lyrics? Welllllll…. I’ dprefer if you didn’t, especially if there are a number of different ways the words can be interpreted. Are you in love again? Are you sleeping with someone new? Are you glad to have gotten rid of someone? Is your child’s father the no good SOB you describe? Are you depressed? Songs can bring up all sorts of issues. Shake it off? Just what are you shaking off? It’s a potential rabbit hole that might be better to avoid.
Social media is great. I use it. I’m sure you use it, or you wouldn’t be reading this article. I understand the appeal. Still, if you’re facing a divorce or custody case, you should tread very, very carefully, and make sure you think before you share.
For more information, request a copy of our social media free report, or give our office a call at 757-425-5200 to schedule a one on one consultation with one of our licensed and experienced Virginia divorce and custody attorneys.