Posted on 19.4.17
As a family law solicitor, review of information posted on social media forms an integral part of my day to day work.
Posts on sites such as Facebook, whether photos or comments, are increasingly being used by clients in a number of ways to impact on divorce and other proceedings. Whether being used as evidence to gain the edge in financial negotiations, demonstrate flaws in character or as proof for acts of infidelity or other behaviours central to the breakdown of the relationship.
It’s often the case that there is a correlation between heavy use of social media post separation and issues relating to the other person’s unavailability or obsessive use of social media during the relationship; often causing the breakdown. Studies show up to 1 of 7 couples entering into divorce cite “excessive use of social media” as either a primary or associated cause of their break up.
Social media can be a very disruptive and harmful tool when going through a break-up, many people are oblivious to the fact that social media posts are public documents, admissible in court and can cause potentially significant harm to their ability to negotiate during dissolution proceedings.
Divorce is a highly stressful and emotional time and social media can provide relief from the reality of your situation, but it’s important not to get carried away with your online activity and to ensure that status updates and images posted online are not contradictory to anything which you seek to rely on in Court or negotiations. For example, if you maintain that you are unable to work due to injury but then post pictures of you on holiday doing extreme sports, this argument may be undermined entirely as well as serving to demonstrate your dishonest nature in telling untruths about your situation.
In divorce, both parties have a responsibility to provide full and frank disclosure, make sure your social media isn’t telling a different tale to the one you’re telling in court
Determining a fair financial agreement during divorce is an essential factor in allowing both parties to maintain independence and move on from the relationship. When you split with your partner, you may be tempted to take a holiday, treat yourself or engage in retail therapy, all of which are perfectly acceptable (and often successful) coping mechanism after a break up.
However, be careful what you post to social media as they may be factored in to any discussions regarding finances. If you’re asking for over 50% settlement because your wage is low but you’re posting pictures of yourself on holiday abroad with a new (wealthier) partner it could give your ex the evidence they need to contest your claims.
Even if you have removed your ex from you friends/followers list and blocked them, you will likely still share mutual friends. Couples have often even gone to the lengths of creating new accounts to monitor each other’s behaviour post break-up for the sole purpose of gathering evidence to use in court and even to blackmail them.
Divorce with dignity
Where a relationship has broken down due to infidelity, you may have seen incriminating messages and/or photos on your partner’s email or social media accounts. It can be very tempting to ‘hack’ their accounts to obtain the proof, thinking it will help you in court. This is not a good idea for a number of reasons…
- The evidence may be inadmissible in court as it is private/confidential.
- You could end up facing criticism or separate legal action for invading your ex’s private accounts (particularly if you have hacked their work email).
- It is unlikely to reflect well on you in court, invading privacy in this way can often be viewed as abusive behaviour in a relationship.
In divorce, emotions run extremely high, but always try to maintain your composure and not get caught in a row as, anything you say publically on Facebook is impossible to take back and could well follow you throughout the divorce. Conversations can be saved and screenshotted and whilst you may not have meant what you said in the heat of the moment, they can be used to show you in a bad light. Avoid aggressive, abusive language and definitely avoid making any threats, physical or otherwise.