A strategic guide for social media use for people going through a divorce.
What you share on social media can have a significant impact on issues related to your divorce. Text, photos, and videos not only can be used as evidence in custody hearings, but can also have a significant impact on your ex-spouse’s emotional state. Your ex-spouse’s sentiment towards you can have a significant impact on divorce proceedings. If they are content, they will want to end things quickly and painlessly as possible. If they act from a vindictive or resentful point of view, the process can be far longer and more unpleasant than necessary. Due to these legal and interpersonal considerations, it is important to consider the impact of your social media behavior and – armed with that knowledge – then act strategically. The following article covers ten habits to adopt and actions to take should you become involved in divorce proceedings.
10 Social Media Practices to Cultivate during your Divorce
- Change all of your passwords
- Disconnect apps linked to your smartphone
- Get a new cell phone provider
- Refrain from maligning your former spouse online
- Change your privacy settings
- Change your privacy mentality
- Talk to your lawyer before deleting any social media content
- Consider using a Communication Management app
- Don’t stalk your ex’s social media
- Don’t use your friends as social media spies
#1 – Change all of your passwords
You often share everything when you are married, including passwords to your phone, email, and social media accounts. If you plan on getting divorced, immediately change all of your passwords to your social media pages, phone, email accounts, computers, etc. Because sometimes the passwords for these accounts are saved on your computer or the cloud so that you don’t even need to remember every complex password that has ever been suggested to you – the first password you should change is the one that gives access to this repository. You may believe your spouse does not know your passwords. You may believe that they are “too good of a person” to exploit their ability to access your accounts in some way. You may have some other belief why they won’t do this that seems reasonable. It doesn’t matter – change it! The minor inconvenience of resetting your passwords will:
- Provide you with increased peace of mind as you will know with absolute certainty you have taken action to prevent yourself from being the target of digital snooping by an ex-spouse.
- Reduce the risk that your private information could be exploited in some undesired manner.
#2 – Disconnect apps linked to your smartphone
A variety of information and communication services are linked to cell phones, such as Apple’s iMessage and FindMyFriends. These apps can operate on multiple devices and if you don’t change their settings, it’s possible that your movements can be tracked or unwanted communications can be sent or received.
#3 – Get a new cellphone provider
While cellphones aren’t technically social media – these services have many similar qualities that make them worthy of being included in this list. Verizon, T-Mobile, and other cellular telephone service providers enable account owners to view and download call logs and geolocation data. The call and geolocation data can be used in divorce cases for a variety of purposes.
Sometimes this course of action can come with breach of contract fees. When a client is not yet receiving financial aid, this might seem an unnecessary expense. And yet to obtain the peace of mind which comes from knowing that your ex-spouse can’t easily monitor your communications and movement activities, it may be worth paying the penalty, or even buying a brand new phone.
#4 – Refrain from maligning your former spouse online
Before you post anything negative about your spouse, even something that is ambiguous, ask yourself these three questions:
- Do I want to have to explain this photo or statement to a judge?
- Were my ex-spouse to see this, could it affect them in a way that it may lead to negative ramifications, i.e. less likely to be amicable in our divorce proceedings?
- Is my sharing of this content worth the legal billable hours it could lead to?
Divorce is a very emotional process. It is natural to want to publicly scold an ex-spouse for their infidelity, to express frustration over problems related to alimony or where you feel they have failed as a parent, etc. But sharing these grievances – even in a form you think only Robert Langdon could interpret – can be taken the wrong way and lead to serious, unintended consequences.
The opportunity to resolve your issues in a relatively peaceable fashion can be squandered simply because you decided to malign your ex in a social media post.
Always remember, if you really need to vent you have options, including:
- Asking a friend to meet in person to talk over a glass of wine or a few beers
- Write down your feelings in a paper journal
- Meeting with a support group
- Arrange to speak with a counselor
Externalization of your emotions is good and healthy, but during the divorce process should be done in way that it can’t cause you additional grief.
#5 – Change your privacy settings
In addition to watching what you say, you also need to consider what your friends and family are saying about you via tagged photos and posts.
Say, for example, you are at a party held on a date you have custody of your children. Perhaps marijuana and alcohol were consumed there. If a friend takes photos of you, posts them on Facebook, and tags you in them – your ex or one of their friends can see them. Your ex can now use these as evidence to show you are an unfit parent in an upcoming custody hearing.
Or, perhaps, a family member is upset about the fact that your ex won’t finalize your divorce. Were they to rant on Facebook about how their ex-in-law is a horrible person, calling them every name under the sun, and tag you then suddenly, everyone of your friends with now can read that message. And, because it’s on your feed, people will presume you feel the same way.
If your ex becomes aware of this post, it could upset them so much that now they won’t even entertain amicable settlement negotiations because they are so upset and are out for revenge. That Cuisinart mixer which your partner was ready to give you without a fight as they don’t cook? That being a point of contention in the settlement is now the least of your problems!
These two privacy-setting examples show just how much your divorce proceedings can be impacted if you don’t carefully cultivate your social media practices. The first example could result in you losing custodial time with your children while the second highlights how it could result in a delayed resolution for your case, and, most importantly, higher legal fees!
The easiest way to avoid either of these issues from happening? Change your social media privacy settings so any time someone wants to link content to your account it is not displayed until you approve it. Here’s where you can go to learn more about changing your social media privacy settings:
- Facebook: How can I adjust my privacy settings?
- Instagram: Privacy Setting and Information
- Twitter: How to protect your personal information
- Tik Tok: Privacy Controls
- Snapchat: Privacy Settings
#6 – Change your privacy mentality
In addition to changing your privacy settings, you should assume that nothing you say online is genuinely private.
If you belong to a “private” group, remember that as other members can see your posts – so too can an ex-spouse or one of their friends create a counterfeit account in order to gain entry and then monitor your posts.
If you receive a friend- or follow-request from a profile that presents itself as someone you are already friends with, or looks to be suspicious in some way – don’t accept the request.
Even after you’ve adjusted your privacy setting to be the most restrictive – you should not presume that anything you say online is truly private. Cunning methods can always be used to circumvent these settings.
#7 – Talk to your lawyer before deleting any content on social media
If you are involved in litigation or anticipate litigation, you need to speak with your attorney should you want to delete your profile or any content. Digital forensics techniques are frequently able to retrieve the data you are seeking to delete and, depending on the dynamics of the case, unpublishing information could be considered illegal or spoliation of evidence.
#8 – Consider Using a Communications Management App
When minor children are involved in the divorce, it is likely that communication between the parties can turn nasty. The more intense and colorful the documented language is between ex-spouses, the greater the likelihood that it will end up having some impact on divorce proceedings or custody arrangements. Thankfully, there’s an app for that!
Our Family Wizard is an app that documents agreements and communications, thus providing accountability to separated parents. OurFamilyWizard is especially useful as it has an option to examine outbound communications for flagged language before you hit send. Being forced to think twice before sending a message can lead you to hit the delete button before sending something inflammatory.
If self-control isn’t an issue – you may not need the app. If it is, you should consider using the app to help communications between you and your ex stay civil, even if you don’t have kids together. A good method to remember to stay courteous is to do this before sending anything: imagine any private message you send your ex-spouse being read by a judge into the record six months from now.
#9 – Don’t stalk your ex’s social media
Going through a divorce can be a very stressful and emotionally draining experience. According to research published in the Journal of Psychometric Research using the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory test, it’s the second most stressful experience one can go through.
While you may have unanswered questions or concerns you feel could be answered by monitoring what your ex is doing online – don’t do it. Follow Kanye West’s example and unfollow your ex-spouse on social media.
#10 – Don’t use your friends as social media spies
Even after a couple is no longer connected on social media, some friends or family are likely to remain connected.
Never ask them for information about what the other person is sharing! It is not only unfair to ask your friends and family to be social media spies, but it is also unhealthy. It will strain your relationship with those that are still on good terms with your ex-spouse, even if they offer. Tell them that the best way they could help is by keeping anything they see to themselves because you want to move on.
Everyone must be careful on social media, particularly those going through a divorce or separation, so remember these 10 Social Media Practices to Cultivate During Your Divorce.