Social Media and Divorce: When Posting Comes Back to Haunt You

Social Media and Divorce
She’d been separated from her husband for eons, and their divorce wasn’t making much headway. So when Tricia’s boyfriend proposed elopement after a whirlwind courtship, she agreed. After all, she figured, she lived two states away from her soon-to-be-ex husband and they weren’t on speaking terms—plus she’d blocked him on Facebook, so he couldn’t see her posts. He’d never find out. And she and her boyfriend could simply “renew their vows” at a later date to make it legal, right?

If you know anything about internet privacy, you know how this ends: Tricia posted about her elopement on Facebook, her ex-husband did find out (even though he couldn’t see her page), and Tricia found herself in a lot of hot water — and not only in divorce court, since intentional bigamy is a crime. And her new husband? Infuriated by her deception, he got an annulment for their illegitimate marriage and left.

Social media is a lot of fun, but make no mistake about it: everything you post on Facebook, Twitter, and similar sites should be considered public. If there is information you’d rather your spouse didn’t have access to — for example, the fact that you took your girlfriend to Barbados when you’d told your ex (or current!) wife you were away on business — there’s really only one rule of thumb:

If you don’t want your spouse, or your spouse’s attorney, to see it, then don’t post it.

Don’t post your whereabouts, who you’re with, what you’re doing, or photos of yourself (and turn off the GPS function on your phone, too). Don’t make snide comments about your spouse on your page or anyone else’s. Don’t lie about your marital status on dating sites. In short, keep your online presence completely innocuous, or your own words could come back to haunt you.

Even with strict privacy settings, other people’s posts (or comments on your posts) can “leak” to the wider world. In Tricia’s case, her spouse couldn’t see her posts, but he could see comments on her posts made by mutual friends. One such comment, congratulating her on her recent wedding, inspired him to convince a mutual acquaintance to let him look at Tricia’s page — and take a screenshot. That screenshot became evidence in divorce court.

It’s also important to keep close tabs on your children’s use of social media. Even if you’re squeaky clean, a child who posts indiscriminate comments or photos showing inappropriate behavior could lead to disputes with your ex. Seeing a teenage son post “Dude! Got so wasted last night whl Mom was @ movies w/her BFF! Steal some Bud from yr Dad’s stash so she dn’t find out I drinkg her beer, bro?” would cause many a father to consult an attorney. Insist that your children “friend” you (and check their status updates regularly), and require them to use a computer in a common area—one for which you control password access.

Sound paranoid? Not really, considering we live in a day and age when people communicate more on Facebook than they do face-to-face.