Article written by Ron Shulman
We all know that what we post on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter is public. And as much as we’d like to truly delete some of our posts, comments and shares, they live on servers we don’t control. They’re never really gone. Once something is “out” you cannot really take it back.
That’s why it’s so important to use discretion when discussing sensitive subjects on social media, and divorce and separation are right up there.
As we noted in our blog post, Family Law Disputes – Be Careful with Those Nasty Texts, when disagreements or misunderstanding arise, it is all-too-easy to send a volley of nasty – and frequently ill-considered – messages back and forth. In fact, in the case Menchella v. Menchella the court found that a husband’s abusive text messages to the wife constituted to “violence” for the purposes of the Family Law Act.
You may be tempted to vent your emotions to your friends list or Twitter followers, but it’s a really bad idea. In fact, some studies indicate that Facebook is a growing cause of divorce in and of itself.
And remember, even if you unfriend or block your spouse, you likely have mutual friends who will pick up on your post and share your news with your soon-to-be-former partner – whether through loyalty or ignorance of the details of your break-up. And if your news is upsetting to your ex, their willingness to negotiate a fair and amicable agreement might just vanish into thin air.
Also, you should be aware that social media posts could be admissible in court. That can mean big ramifications if you post an untruth (potential defamation suit), share news about a new relationship, or show any indication that your financial status is not what you’ve officially reported.
For example, in a 2011 Ontario case called Jesmer v. Delormier, the court agreed to re-open a custody hearing to allow new evidence that had come to its attention. Certain information on Facebook cast doubt on the truth of some previous evidence by witnesses at the earlier hearing, and raised questions about the father’s parenting ability. You can read more about that in our blog post Can You Use Facebook Evidence in Court?
And then, of course, there are your kids, who should really be able to stay friends with both parents on social media if they want to. Don’t expose them to you bashing their other parent in a public forum.
Here are a few more tips to help you navigate social media during separation and divorce
1. Never post anything to social media that you wouldn’t say or do on the evening news
2. Change your privacy settings so what you post can only be seen by your direct friends or followers, and remember that private messaging isn’t really private
3. Disable tagging in photos
4. Disable location tracking and check-in features – especially if personal safety is a concern
5. Consider waiting till things are settled before changing your relationship status or reverting to your maiden name.
Social media is an integral part of our daily lives. It allows us to connect with people next door or across the world. It helps us find helpful information and answers to questions.
But when it comes to divorce and separation, social media can really add complication, or get you in a lot of hot water. Use discretion and common sense. And when it doubt, leave it out.
You might find some of these previous blog posts helpful as well.
- Can You Use Facebook Evidence in Court?
- Using Facebook Information in Court
- Family Law Disputes – Be Careful with those Nasty Texts
- More on Intemperate Texting in Family Law
Happy posting! And while you’re at it, why not follow us on social media to stay up-to-date on the latest family law news?