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Divorce, Internet, and Social Networking

When we hear stories about social media and its impact on the real world it is usually in connection to politics. Social media companies are seemingly under constant fire from all participants in politics, right or left. Either the social media companies are doing too much to censor certain voices, or they are not doing enough. Lengthy news articles come out periodically to tell us that elections or issues were impacted significantly due to social media one way or another. However, it is not only the world of politics that has been impacted by social media.

The world of divorce has been forever changed because of widespread social media use. As a result, with people using social media in their daily lives and Litigants using social media in collecting and utilizing evidence in a Divorce trial, social media has become increasingly important for families who are going through the divorce process. Your involvement in social media over the years is something that can be used against you in a case. Likewise, diligent exploration of social media use by your spouse can be used in your favor.

Because of the pandemic, many people have utilized social media as a substitute during times when the in-person gathering was not possible. as a result, you or your spouse may have posted photographs, made comments, or completed status updates about yourself on the computer more regularly than you otherwise would have. Depending on what kind of updates those were the information contained online may be of some importance to your divorce case. This is an important consideration for you to make before the beginning of your divorce case. It may be worth your time to look at your social media usage over the past few years. The more you utilize social media the more likely it is that there may be something in your history that there's a potential negative for you.

On the other hand, many of us have also used social media to let out frustrations with the pandemic, social and political issues. You may have even used social media to communicate frustrations with your spouse or other people. What ends up happening in that type of situation is that you may disclose information that does not paint you in the best light. Even more important than the information that you may disclose are the photographs that you may post or be posted in by others. One of the easiest pieces of “investigation” that an attorney or their staff can conduct is to log on to a social media website and look up your name. There can be a treasure trove of potential evidence and negotiation points found in doing so.

While you cannot go back in time and change decisions that were already made you can operate more strategically and intelligently moving forward. How do you do that? Learning self-control or otherwise swearing off social media probably isn’t the most realistic expectation at this stage in the game. Social media usage is as common as anything else that we do nowadays. To think that you will cut ties with social media because some lawyer in a family blog post said it may be a good idea is not something that I’m going to think about much.

No, what I would offer you today is a path to be able to use social media in a wiser and better way. There is no sure-fire way to avoid bad outcomes on social media just like it is not possible to be able to avoid one hundred percent of bad situations in life. You can try, though. No matter how frequently you use social media or what purposes you use it for there are smarter ways to be able to exist online in 2022. What's more- your divorce can be impacted by your social media use in profound ways.

Instantaneous responses on social media can get you into trouble

We all know that social media allows us to do things that we may regret. The anonymity of responding to someone online instead of face to face coupled with the ease of typing a response into a computer make rash judgments and responses very easy. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that we can say things online that we would never say to another person if we were face to face with them. That goes for strangers as well as our spouses. You may not have the confidence or even the desire to say something hurtful to your spouse in person but put you and him or her in an online environment and anything is possible. Go look through your social media timeline right now to see if I am right about this- I bet I am.

When you receive a message, see a photo, or have any other interaction with your spouse or another person online I would recommend that you not respond immediately. It may feel good at the moment to say something immediately, but it rarely reflects well on your true mindset or your character. Rather, I would recommend taking a moment or two to collect your thoughts. Imagine that what you are about to say is going around the world and back in half a second because it would. How would that change what you were about to say?

The thing about social media is that it can be harmless or extremely harmful depending upon how your use the platforms. Posting pictures of your kid’s soccer games and things of that nature can be completely benign. However, some of us use social media for reasons that are not as simple. Many people end up using social media to check in on people that they went to high school with or even were in prior relationships with. This can lead to all sorts of problems in marriages. Your marriage may even be an example of how social media can be used for bad reasons.

What we also know about social media is that what you post on these websites technically becomes the property of the website in many cases. You may lose the ability to pull something back or even claim ownership of something you posted or said. Couple this with the ability of these social media websites to be able to track your time on there and send you specialized advertisements and taking some time away from social media during your divorce may be for the best. I know my wife and I have had experiences where we were discussing one subject or another only to find that a social media platform immediately started showing us advertisements for that product or service.

Overall, the ability to connect digitally has been positive in many regards. Especially during a difficult time like a pandemic, it has been important to be flexible in terms of how we spend time together. Hopefully, the coming months and years allow us to do more in-person socializing which will decrease the need to use social media to the degree that we have in recent years. However, I think social media is something that will be a big part of our lives for the foreseeable future. With that comes challenges for each of us when it comes to how we use the various platforms. When you are going through a divorce those challenges become especially meaningful and potentially impactful. There are very few positives that can come out of your use of social media but numerous negative consequences. This is something for you to keep in mind as you undertake an important legal process like a divorce.

Think of what you say on social media as being admissible evidence in your divorce

As I mentioned a moment ago, social media sort of lulls us into a false sense of comfort when it comes to what we post on there. We sit in our living room, a restaurant booth, office, or other location and view photos and post comments without giving it a second thought. It feels like we are anonymous when we are doing these things even though we are signed in to our account on any of these platforms. Still- we are far away from the people that we are posting to or about. That physical distance makes us feel more comfortable expressing things than we otherwise would in my opinion. That can be a bad thing in normal times. It can be an especially bad thing in the context of a contested divorce case.

The reality of your divorce is that your spouse and you will both be looking for any opportunity available to gain an advantage in the divorce. For example, suppose that you both are attempting to win primary custody of your children. In a situation where you both are similarly situated in terms of income, home life, parenting skills, and other factors this can be a difficult decision for a judge to make. Therefore, any factor can be used to tip the scales in favor of one of you. Social media is low-hanging fruit for an attorney or their client to grab and hurl towards you like a rotten piece of fruit.

Social media is not automatically something that can be introduced in a trial. No potential kinds of evidence are. Rather, there is a process that is involved with marking, introducing, offering, and admitting evidence into the record of a case. Until an exhibit is admitted into evidence by a judge then he or she may not consider it when issuing rulings after a hearing or trial. Fortunately for you, if you are represented by an attorney, he or she will handle this aspect of your case. Attorneys spend a great deal of time working to ensure that the evidence they want to have entered will be able to make it into the record. On the other hand, attorneys also work hard to keep evidence out that could be damaging to their client's case.

Whether you have social media that you would like to introduce for "offense" or are trying to keep social media out of the record for "defense" you need to be prepared for whatever outcomes may result. A good rule of thumb that you may choose to implement in your own life is to assume that everything you do on social media will eventually make its way into your divorce. This will impact how you use social media and may even lead to you utilizing social media less frequently. At the very least it may cause you to use social media more judiciously and less like a toy that can be picked up and dropped off with little to no consequences.

Another way to look at this lesson is to think about what you post on social media from the perspective of your mother or grandmother. How would they feel if they read the things that you posted online- photographs or comments? I’m willing to bet that you would not necessarily be proud of everything that you have ever done online. I’ll count myself in that group to be sure. While it may be a little uncomfortable for you to approach your online activities this way it is helpful. Do not assume that what you do on social media will be viewed only by your intended recipient. Rather, it may be your spouse- or their attorney- which views the material. If it doesn’t seem worth it to post something- it probably isn’t.

Keep your divorce off the internet

Of all the topics in your life that will be the most tempting to post online about during your divorce is your divorce itself. An online forum like social media is a prime opportunity for you to let off some steam. Sometimes that just means chatting privately with an old friend about the current events of your life. Sometimes that could also mean posting less than flattering comments about your spouse, your family, or even the attorneys involved in your case.

This is a bad move, in my opinion. The idea that years-old photos could be used against you in a divorce can be a lot for some people to fathom. However, the idea that a comment made contemporaneous with your divorce may be used in your divorce should not come as a surprise. Sometimes these may be simple words used against your spouse regarding any subject under the sun. Unfortunately, as a part of most temporary orders in Texas, you are barred from saying negative things about your spouse in front of your children or a public place. Social media comments and posts could certainly be taken as a violation of the temporary orders.

At worst, you may find yourself doing something where a photo is taken of you doing something that violates a major part of your temporary orders. Consider, for example, what may happen if a photo is taken of you at a restaurant, bar, or even a friend's house where you were having an alcoholic drink. In normal circumstances, this would not be a big deal. However, you may have language included in your temporary orders that prevents you from drinking alcohol.

Human nature being what it is you may have thought it wouldn’t be a big deal just this once to have a drink. However, an innocent drink may have negative implications for your case. When even the little things can make a difference, it is not worth taking a risk like that. Especially when you know that cameras are around you should not risk having your violation documented. I don’t believe that most temporary orders will bar you from having an alcoholic drink like this. However, if they do a photo like this can make its way in front of a judge with ease.

Turn off the electronics for the duration of your divorce? Maybe

The easy thing to say at this juncture would be that you should just turn off your social media until the divorce is over. Remove all temptation and you will be better off. Again- you have little to gain and a lot to potentially lose by going on social media during your divorce. If you want to post about something frustrating that your spouse did during the divorce, then you can always write it in a letter and then not send it. Or create a Microsoft word document, write down your thoughts and then delete the document without ever saving it. Either option would be better than doing so on social media.

Ultimately it is up to you how much you want to engage with social media during your divorce. Each of us has different cases and preferences when it comes to a divorce. What you do in your case may be different than what another person does. Review this information and then start to think about how you may want to attack this issue in your divorce case.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations can be a great way to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family's circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.

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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Spring Divorce Attorneys

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Spring, TX Divorce Attorneys right away to protect your rights.

Our divorce attorneys in Spring TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Spring, TexasCypressSpringKleinHumble, KingwoodTomballThe Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris CountyMontgomery CountyLiberty County, Chambers CountyGalveston CountyBrazoria CountyFort Bend County, and Waller County.

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