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Using Social Media During Your Pending Divorce: Tips for Protecting Your Legal Rights

Is social media use associated with higher divorce rates?

One survey of divorce lawyers reports that 1/3 of divorces resulted from social media disagreements while another survey revealed 80% of U.S. divorce attorneys report increased divorce rates linked to use of social media. While these results are not conclusive, the potential consequences of using social media during a pending divorce are far more certain.   Four out of five divorce lawyers, for instance, use data from Facebook and similar sites to build arguments against the opposing party on child support, spousal maintenance, property division, and custody – and much more.   The narrative of your case, whether in the courtroom or on the Internet, can be critical to its success. Attorney Kathleen M. Newman of the DeWitt LLP law firm uses nearly forty years of family law experience to tell compelling legal stories to achieve client objectives.

To understand social media’s value as an information source, it helps to know the law requires divorcing parties to fully disclose their:

  • assets/liabilities used in part to divide marital property, such as real estate and other property acquired during the marriage,
  • income/expenses to determine child support and spousal maintenance obligations, and,
  • the specific needs of the minor children and each party’s fitness as parents to determine custody and parenting time.   

Social media platforms are fast and inexpensive sources of some of this information, directly, or indirectly.   Formal financial statements are obviously not found on social media, but there is other financial data like workplace, titles, skills and to varying degrees, even income/assets, often indirectly revealed by celebratory photos of promotions, the purchase of new vehicles and similar events.   Also, social media can be an important source of lifestyle data, like romantic interests, friends, hobbies, favorite restaurants, political views and much more.   Lawyers often try to use this data to show inconsistencies with, for example, a party’s deposition testimony, or other times, to challenge a parent’s fitness for custody or parenting time by questioning the reputation of friends, romantic interests, or a party’s drinking or other social habits.

Given social media’s free-wheeling and loose talking nature coupled with how opposing lawyers often use its data in divorce cases, here are some top tips for social media use:

  • Stop or limit your use of social media platforms until your divorce is “final,” which generally means receiving court notification that your divorce decree has been filed and entered. But even “final” divorce decrees may be amended for changed circumstances, especially with respect to child issues and support, so you should always be cautious,
  • Until your case is “final,” request your friends and others not post about you, your soon to be ex, not post photos of you or your children and not add your name as a “friend” to a post,
  • Never make any posts about your divorce case, including comments, good or bad, about the judge or other court personnel. The same judge who signed your divorce decree may be handling your child related and financial support issues for years to come. Do not give the judge a reason not to like you as a person or make it appear you have a favored relationship with the judge by posting something complimentary,
  • Never post, critical or complimentary, about your ex, and his/her extended family or friends. These postings are potential evidence in further divorce proceedings, including child custody and parenting time matters.

Take-away:  Social media is often great fun in ordinary times but during divorce proceedings use of social media can present risks to your case. a  Attorney Kathleen M. Newman of the DeWitt LLP law firm has nearly forty years of family law experience along with the skills divorcing parties need at a critical time.   Call us today for a consultation.

Sources:
“Social Media Use During Divorce: Why You Shouldn’t Engage,” Divorce Mag.com (2021).
“Family Law: Social Media Evidence in Divorce Cases,” National Law Review (February 14, 2019)
“Stay off Social Media (Or Risk Divorce), New Survey Says” Huff Post (April 30, 2015).

About the Author

With extensive experience in all aspects of marital dissolutions, Kathleen M. Newman has handled many complex divorces, including cases with closely held business interests, professional practices and high net worth cases. Her clients appreciate her listening skills and quick assessment of complex issues. She helps her clients organize a strategy to accomplish their goals in resolving the issues in their divorces.

She can be reached by email at kmn@dewittllp.com or by phone at 612-305-1400.

 

 

 

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