For someone going through a divorce, the reasons to turn to Facebook, Twitter or similar social media sites are easy to understand. Loneliness, alienation, frustration, fear, anger and genuine concern can leave divorcing spouses anxious to find new sources of social support. The near-universal availability of social networks entices those in need of emotional support with the promise of instant acceptance among peers.
When you’re going through a divorce, posting frustrations, fears or accusations on Facebook, Twitter or other social networks – even among supposed friends – can be a costly mistake. Evidence gathered from online sources has lately become a mainstay of divorce proceedings. Evidence from online sources can affect custody decisions and alimony determinations, or can even lead to libel judgments. Yet social networks make it easy to publish off-hand remarks that can later be used against you in family court.
Common sense and prevailing wisdom might suggest that social media and divorce don’t play well together. A day in almost any divorce court will likely indicate otherwise: social media and divorce are everyday playmates, but that doesn’t mean social media and divorce are a safe mix.
A recent study by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that 81 percent of the top divorce lawyers nationwide reported an increase in the number of cases that involve social networking evidence. The Web site ForensicFocus.com, which provides digital research services to trial attorneys – identified nearly 700 cases nationwide in which social network evidence was considered during just a few months, but the forensic researchers said those cases are most likely just the tip of an iceberg.
In Divorce, Facebook Posts May Spell Trouble
Social networks can be a troubling temptation during a divorce, but they also pose hazards long before one or the other spouse files for divorce. Bitter jealousy may erupt around online “friendships” that in fact are nothing more than the result of casual clicking. Extramarital affairs may develop more readily on the Internet than in more traditional settings. Innocent clicking can quickly lead to virtual intimacy, with the potential for physical betrayal.
Each situation is unique, and there are often strong reasons to continue using the Internet to stay in touch with friends or family, and to expand one’s social reach. The emotional impact of a divorce doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to responsibly manage your social behavior. Before you spend hours in front of the computer planning your post divorce lifestyle, consider these four basic pointers that might help you avoid trouble:
1. Don’t Badmouth Your Spouse Online
If things you post about a current or former spouse aren’t true, you might face a libel suit. Even if they are true, when a child custody order is involved, parents are generally barred from disparaging the other parent in front of the child. Children may easily find a parent’s online comments, even when comments were originally made in a discrete Internet back room. Disparaging online comments about the other parent could come back to haunt you.
2. Don’t Break Into Your Spouse’s Accounts
Once you are separated, courts generally prohibit divorcing spouses from opening each other’s mail. Don’t pry into your ex-spouse’s online accounts when you aren’t certain you have their permission. You may know the password and you may think you are alone, but most activities on the Internet can be traced. Your peeking might be discovered. If there’s a legitimate reason to access your spouse’s social network or email accounts, your divorce attorney may persuade a court to order access. Without a court order, you could face civil or criminal penalties for breaking into an online account.
3. Don’t Fall for a False Sense of Privacy
What you post in social media – even among private online groups – may become subject to discovery by your spouse’s divorce attorney. Likewise, your email and even your Internet browsing history may be targeted if it may contain evidence relevant to a court proceeding.
4. Find a Diversion
If the temptation of snooping on your spouse seems too much to bear, if you just can’t seem to resist telling a select few exactly what you think about your soon-to-be-ex, or if you are sure the next stranger you meet in the free personal classified will be your true soul-mate, you might need something to distract you. It’s easy to make mistakes when you’re under emotional stress.
You might be eager to get back into the flow of social life as a single person by venturing out into the online world, but take time to consider your own best interests. Healthy alternatives may include exercise, physically or mentally challenging endeavors, structured social activities that involve interaction with others not caught up in conflict, or activities that benefit someone other than yourself – such as caring for children or even helping a charity or a similar worthwhile cause.
Don’t Guess: Get a Divorce Attorney’s Advice
If you are planning to change your relationship status from married to “it’s complicated” or “single” and suspect your spouse has a secret life online, contact a qualified Oklahoma divorce attorney. If dozens of newspapers, magazine and online articles aren’t enough to persuade you to keep you online activities in check during a divorce, ask an attorney what could be the downside.
Free Consultation: Tulsa Divorce Lawyer
At Divorce of Tulsa Law Office, our experienced Tulsa divorce attorney offers free consultations for those with legal questions about divorce and family law. Before you risk your family’s future by casually posting your innermost thoughts or prying into someone else’s online secrets, contact the Tulsa divorce lawyer at 918-924-5526, or submit a question using the contact form at the top of this page.