How much time do you spend online? In the past few years, I am sure that most of us have seen an uptick in the amount of time that we spend using the internet both for business and leisure. If your job was made to be hybrid or fully remote, then almost all of your communication with co-workers and clients probably was done through webcams and email. The in-person meeting has become a thing of the past for many of us. The trick where we dress in business attire on our upper bodies but have gym shorts on and flip flops is such a common joke nowadays given our new online realities.
In that time, I am willing to bet that we have also increased our internet usage for leisure activities. Specifically, social media use has likely increased due to COVID restrictions and concerns initially. However, with people moving from place to place like never before using social media to keep in contact with those in your life who are no longer living near you probably seems like the most logical plan. Social media allows us to keep up with people that we otherwise would have lost touch with. We can connect to different people and groups that share common interests, as well.
However, social media can also be a negative on your life if you allow it to be. The reasons for this are varied based on how you might use social media. For instance, if you were interested in politics then you may overuse Facebook or Twitter to engage in political debates and arguments. You may use up a lot of your free time engaging in these back-and-forth arguments with someone that you may not even know. As a result, social media use can be a tremendous time waster when you otherwise could be doing productive things like working or spending time with your family. It is easy to fall into the trap of using social media in this way.
Next, we see social media used inappropriately by spouses. You may not be surprised to learn that social media use can oftentimes lead to inappropriate conduct between married people and persons that are not their spouses. All it takes is a comment on a photo or a seemingly innocent message to a former classmate to produce a combustible situation for you and your spouse. What you may have considered to be a simple comment or attempt to reconnect can sometimes lead to a very negative situation for you and your marriage.
Why people decide to stray outside of their marriage for affection and attention is not overly important to our discussion in today's blog post. All of us probably know a handful of people who have gotten divorced and the reasons for that divorce can be extremely diverse. You may be facing a divorce of your own and the reasons for that divorce may be extremely varied. What we would like to cover in today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is how social media usage and evidence can impact your divorce and settlement negotiations.
If you have any sort of online presence and use social media to any extent, then you can expect that your social media use will be an issue in your divorce. Understanding how your social media history can and will be an issue in your divorce is extremely important. Neglecting to have a plan when it comes to using social media to your advantage in negotiations and minimizing the harm of any negative social media history that you have is key to having a successful divorce. Right now, if a divorce has been filed by you or your spouse you can rest assured that the opposing attorney in your case is likely looking you up on every social media platform to discover if there is any usable evidence for your divorce.
If this is a concern for you then you need diligent and experienced representation to help you sort out all of the relevant circumstances to your case. The attorneys and staff with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are not only experienced in assisting in representing clients in divorce cases but we are adept at helping to use social media to benefit the cases of our clients. To learn more about our office, our attorneys, and how we can best help you in your divorce please contact us today. Free-of-charge consultations are available to you at our three Houston area locations, over the phone, and via video.
Social media and divorce
Marriage is hard enough but going through tough times in a marriage can be even tougher. When you involve other people in the breakdown of your marriage via social media then that makes circumstances even more difficult. What you may have innocently intended to be an issue to be discussed between you and a friend or family member may quickly devolve into a situation where that trusted person shared information with other people. We've all played the childhood game "telephone" where a message you share with the person next to you gets distorted beyond all recognition by the time that message is relayed down the line. This is frequently what happens in a situation where you intend to keep a situation relatively private, but it becomes blown out of proportion by word of mouth.
It is easy to feel comfortable sharing information on social media. We sit in our bedrooms or living rooms and relax by checking out social media, seeing what other people are posting, and then may even sharing some information of our own. We comment on photographs of ourselves and then regret what we were doing in that photograph. Hopefully, that is not behavior that we engage in with any regularity if you are married or have children, but everyone makes mistakes and has lapses in judgment from time to time. What may have, at one time, been harmless fun can now be impactful in a divorce or child custody circumstance involving your children.
Sometimes discretion is the most important consideration you can apply to a situation involving social media. Mindlessly posting photographs or reacting to something without thinking is so easy to do on social media. However, as we have already covered an opposing attorney or even your spouse is probably keeping track of your online movements and habits to collect evidence that could be used against you in your divorce. For this reason, it is logical that you should use social media sparingly, if at all, during a divorce.
What can be used as evidence in your divorce?
Publicly available information that is posted online, like status updates and photographs is a potential source of evidence. Depending upon their relevancy to your case, it is easy to obtain social media evidence. All your spouse or their attorney would have to do is go online and look you up on the various social media platforms. It does not matter if you think that your profile is private or otherwise unable to be accessed by people outside of your friend group. The fact remains that you can be susceptible to other people accessing your profile and taking advantage of the information you post. That information can certainly be used against you in a divorce trial.
A good rule of thumb for you to use when it comes to social media moving forward is to assume that anything you post online can and will be used against you both at the bargaining table and in a trial for your divorce. I know that it can be gratifying and fun to post items in response to other people without giving the matter much thought. However, this is a dangerous path for you to proceed down and is certainly against your interests on a long-term basis. The risk of your posting whatever you want without thinking online is significant. On the other hand, if you were to take a step back and not use social media as frequently then this almost certainly would not have long-term negative consequences for you.
The key to this entire discussion is that your social media posts need to be relevant to your case to be utilized as evidence. You should speak to your attorney about raising objections based on relevancy to prevent various kinds of social media from being utilized against you in a divorce. Probably the most used form of evidence concerning social media and your case would be evidence of an affair or adultery. This evidence would not be needed to file for divorce since Texas is a no-fault divorce state. However, evidence of adultery can be useful when it comes to negotiating a property division settlement. For instance, if your spouse had an affair and used Community property income to purchase their significant other gifts then you could argue that this money should be returned to your community estate.
On top of that, this is the type of information that can potentially be helpful at the bargaining table as well. If you are negotiating on division of your community estate and have information like this available, then you may choose to negotiate differently. The more evidence you have of bad actions by your spouse from social media, the more willing you may be to go forward to a trial. This will allow you to negotiate more aggressively and with more of a focus on your goals.
With that said, let’s spend some time discussing what you should not be sharing online and on social media. Again: I understand the temptation of wanting to share everything good (and bad) in your life online. Some of us even use this to soothe ourselves after a hard day or a difficult experience. I get that. However, the reality is that with social media such a hot-button topic and source of potential evidence in your divorce I would advise against doing so. There isn't enough in it for you to go ahead with a plan to post something nasty about your spouse or to post that photo of you from a party a couple of years back. There will be time for that after the divorce. For now, stick with this information and make decisions that are best for you and your family.
Financial information about your spouse should not be shared under any circumstances online and on social media. You and your spouse will exchange financial information in the divorce and will likely share that information with the judge in preparation for any hearing or trial. If you share information that is false with your spouse that is bad enough and could result in penalties from the court and a bad result in and of itself in the divorce. However, if you lie about your finances to your spouse and then share truthful information about those finances on the internet that is especially bad. Issues that could be impacted both in negotiations and a trial include spousal maintenance, contractual alimony, child support, and division of your marital estate. Before you go out and buy that new pickup truck to show off on social media, maybe hold off on doing so until after the divorce is over. Then you are free to get the truck of your dreams and put pictures on every social media platform imaginable.
Everyone who goes through a divorce would rather be doing anything but the divorce. Divorces are not fun, are not productive, and cost money. You can try to rationalize your way out of a divorce, but the result is that you are going through the divorce to get it over with and for no other reason. A divorce is one of those events that you begin and immediately look forward to the end like a trip to the dentist, only longer. With all the frustrations that may be a part of your case, you should not post things about your spouse that are negative. Do post about your spouse in any way during or after the divorce. It's good manners, first refrain from saying anything unless you have something nice to say. Remember that the person you are posting about is the other parent of your children.
Next, you need to keep in mind that there are likely to be punishments for you if you post negatively about your spouse online during the divorce case. In your final decree of divorce, there will likely be a provision that prohibits you and your spouse from speaking about the other person in front of the kids negatively. It is also likely that this provision will be included in any temporary orders for your case. Regardless of what is going on in your case, it is just not worth it to speak poorly about your spouse.
Keep in mind that if you want to avoid a trial with your spouse then you will need to stay on their good side. I do not mean that you must bend over backward for him or her. However, it is not a good idea for you to get on their bad side for no reason other than to let off some steam at him or her. If you want to be able to engage in constructive dialogue with them, you must be civil and respectful in your tone and attitude. Remember that it is easy and may feel good at the moment to be nasty to your spouse, but the long-term impact of your actions can be disastrous. With an eye on negotiations, you need to be able to keep your eyes on the prize and focus your attention on matters that are more critical to the success of your case.
Finally, if you have any history of being a social butterfly then you may want to stay at home as much as possible during the divorce. This will prevent your friends from posting photos of you doing something silly during the divorce which can hurt your case. The last thing that you want to run into during negotiations is a photo that your spouse found online of you doing something embarrassing. This can hurt you in a trial and can cause your spouse to negotiate more aggressively with you in mediation.
I’m not saying that you need to be a puritan when it comes to your behavior. What I am saying is that you need to consider the ramifications of your actions in the short and long terms. If you cannot commit to being on your best behavior when it comes to your online activity you should refrain from being online during this time. There is no way around it. The more civil you can be the less of a risk there is that your social media use could be an issue used against you at the negotiation table in your divorce.
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 are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.