But when it comes to the process of divorce, Facebook and other social media accounts could get you in trouble.
The attorneys at Griffith, Young, and Lass in Carlsbad, California offer a few words of warning for California couples considering divorce and who regularly post to one or more social channels.
“While social media accounts can be helpful for keeping in touch with friends and family, they can exacerbate issues in a contentious divorce,” said Attorney John Griffith.
He added, “Post too much, and those messages could be used against you.”
John Griffith, along with Catie Young and Amy Lass serve clients throughout Carlsbad and San Diego, California. The three sat down to offer a Do’s and Don’ts list of social media etiquette according to their first-hand experience.
- Pause Before Sharing
These days you can take any photo and post it to the masses in the flash of an instant and with just a few clicks. Unfortunately, some of those pictures could come back to haunt you in divorce court.
“Whether it’s an image or meme, or just your thoughts, be careful what you share with others online,” said Catie Young. “Facebook, Twitter, Instagram are continuously being used by criminal prosecutors to trip up defendants in court. You can be sure your ex-spouse’s attorney will be doing the same thing.”
Catie points to instances where people have lost their jobs because of things they’ve posted on social media. In extreme cases, she added, “Posting the wrong message could look unfavorable to the Judge, which can cost you in a contested divorce.”
- Practice Self Control Before Raging
In today’s political climate, tempers can quickly flare online. A single message or meme meant to inflame others can quickly end up with hundreds or thousands of responding posts. It’s very easy to jump into the fray and to put your two cents into the mix.
Before you post in anger or with otherwise strong emotion, Amy Lass suggests you stop and take a breath, then consider if your follow-up thoughts really deserve to see the light of day.
“Arguments online are hardly ever won,” Amy said. “Instead of engaging, it might be best to walk away.”
Amy added, “Judges take into consideration temperament and the ability to control one’s emotions when ruling on things like child custody, for instance. By keeping a cool head online, you can avoid many complications that social channels can cause during the divorce process.”
- Think of the Children
No matter how old your children happen to be, each post could be harmful to their mental states and overall lives. You never want to post anything that could cause the children stress or turmoil or that place them in danger.
John Griffith suggests that parents, “Think about what’s best for the kids when posting to social media. If you are fighting for custody, it may be best to avoid photos that depict alcohol and drug usage, for instance, as that represents unfavorable behavior that could hurt your chances of custody in court.”
Not all social sharing is bad, however. Griffith added that images that showcase good parenting can aid a person’s chances of getting custody, so some social sharing can be a good thing.
- Boasting Can Have Consequences
Social media makes it tempting to brag about your life in order to keep up with the Joneses. Normally, bragging about your money, property, and assets is harmless fun.
During a divorce, however, Catie Young suggests that you assume that every one of those posts could and will be used against you.
Catie said, “We all like to show the best sides of ourselves on social media. When it comes to boasting online, these types of posts could become an issue if you are ordered to pay alimony or spousal support, for example.”
“If you are ordered to pay support and you continually boast about having excess money, property, or assets, the judge might take that as a sign that you might be able to pay a little more,” said Catie.
- Don’t Spy or Stalk
It can be tempting to dig into your ex-spouse’s social media accounts to view photos of them with the kids or arm-in-arm with their new partner. Soon, you may find yourself heading down a rabbit hole that involves jumping from one social media account to the other as you dig deeper and deeper into your former spouse’s new life.
Before going down that route, Amy Lass suggests you ask yourself if cyberstalking your ex is really worth it.
She said, “You may think that viewing the occasional photo of the other spouse is harmless, but this can soon devolve into wanting to hack entire accounts or hiring a private investigator to potentially dig up dirt.”
She added, “It is always best to avoid spying and stalking altogether. Instead, work on moving on in a healthy manner and try to push your ex out of your mind as you plan the next phase of your life.”.
- Be Nice and Respectful to Everyone
All three divorce attorneys agree that, while your divorce is pending, you may want to think twice about posting anything that paints you as angry, confused or violent. This goes particularly for any posts you may be tempted to leave on your ex-spouse’s profile, their new partner’s profile, or on the profiles of friends, family or other acquaintances.
- Maintain Privacy
Social media gives us deep insight into people’s lives. For instance, by posting regularly, your friends and family will likely know when your marriage is in trouble, when you’ve separated, and the moment you asked for divorce.
John Griffith said, “Not everyone is as forthcoming on social media, but many of us overshare without meaning to. “It’s fine if you overshare to those closest to you, but be careful you’re not oversharing to, for instance, the other party in the divorce.”
Griffith added that “Whether you are a regular or occasional poster, make sure your privacy settings are appropriately set. For best results, only allow very close friends and family to see your posts during this time. This keeps your ex-spouse from prying and other complications from arising.”
- More Posts, More Problems
Posting too much is what usually gets divorcing spouses in trouble. When you rapid-fire photos, memes and musings, you leave too much to chance that you’ll say something off-kilter, offensive, or that otherwise may hurt your case.
Catie Young said, “If you really need to post, do it sporadically and keep to one or very few social accounts. The less you post, the higher your chances of getting through your divorce without complications.”
- Assume All Conversations are Monitored
It’s easy to get into back-and-forth conversations or arguments with others on social media.
Amy Lass suggested that, before engaging, consider if the other person is worthy of your time.
“Before you post on social media, think about your other spouse’s attorney, who could potentially bring a printout of all your public conversations for the Judge to read.”
She added that “When you assume all conversations are monitored, you will be less likely to post something you don’t want to be read in California divorce court.”
- Consider Refraining Until After the Divorce
While your divorce attorney cannot prevent you from posting to social media during your divorce,
All three suggest you discuss your case details with your divorce lawyer, and make sure you mention your social posting habits, as well as any questionable posts or material that may be found on your social profiles.
Whether you are going through or considering divorce, contact the compassionate and dedicated attorneys at Griffith, Young, and Lass, now serving clients throughout the areas of Vista and Encinitas, California.