Social media sites - such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, have given us the ability to keep in touch with friends and family, share photos and videos, and much more. Unfortunately, there is a drawback: while social media provides a space to share fun things, it's also a place where negative statements and thoughts can be made in a very public way. These negative statements can become especially hurtful during a divorce.
Since these statements are public, they can make their way into the courtroom or come up during negotiations and mediation. Social media is playing a part in divorce, for better or worse, so it's essential that you know how to handle negative posts you find online and realize how something you post can impact your divorce.
DON'T GO LOOKING FOR NEGATIVE POSTS
If your divorce isn't a friendly affair, you've likely unfriended your ex on all of the various social media sites you use. That's a good idea, but once you do it, you also need to avoid searching for your ex and looking at his or her profile. You're going to feel the urge to see what your ex is saying about you on social media, but you need to avoid the temptation of seeing what, if anything, they've posted. The old saying, "a person who goes looking for trouble will find it" definitely applies here.
It can be difficult if your friends or family members haven't unfriended your ex. You may see them interacting with your ex, either by commenting on posts or sharing them. If you do learn of something your ex has shared on social media that you believe will impact your divorce, show it to your attorney. Do not engage your ex in an online fight.
If you do find that your ex is posting things online, your first instinct is likely to post your own mean things. You may want to directly address what your ex is saying either to get back at him or her or to make sure your friends and family know your side of the story. Just don't do it. Remember, anything online can be used against you, and if your ex is posting negative things, they're likely not going to have any qualms about printing off your posts and showing them to the judge.
A good rule of thumb is to simply ignore your ex and never post anything about your divorce online. It may be tempting to post something very vague that you think only you and your close friends will understand. That's very rarely the case, though. Your ex may know exactly what you're talking about and, again, use it against you in court.
If you do feel the overwhelming urge to address what your ex posted online, open a text document and type it there instead of on social media. Once you've done so, delete the entire thing. Writing out your feelings can be cathartic, but never do it on a social media site, even if you don't plan on posting it. Don't give yourself the temptation.
IS IT LIBEL?
Most of the things your ex is likely to post about you are, in the long run, harmless. They may rant about what you did during the marriage or say some mean things about you, but most people that are reading those posts would understand that they were made in the context of a divorce. However, it is possible your ex will cross the line from harmless ranting to libel.
Libel, in a legal sense, includes making statements that could make it hard for you to secure housing or get a job in the future. Online publications, including posts on social media, can be seen as written defamation by the courts. If your ex posted online that you had stolen money from your job or had acted inappropriately around your children, those statements could cause difficulties later, especially if said posts were made public instead of being limited to their online friends/followers.
In some cases, you do want to bring these posts to the attention of the court and may even need to pursue a lawsuit or an injunction against your ex. However, you do need to realize that such a lawsuit can be costly and will impact your divorce.
CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY
If you find something on social media that you think could play a part in your divorce proceedings, you need to take it to your attorney immediately. The family law experts at Gagne McChrystal De Lorenzo and Burghardt can assist you in handling your divorce, including dealing with social media. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.