Social media serves as an open journal or scrapbook for many people. It allows distant friends to reconnect, family members to keep in touch, and people to share accomplishments. However, social media has also become an easy way for people to get a window into someone’s hobbies, spending habits, and even one’s schedule. In the divorce process, care should be taken so that social media does not frustrate the negotiations.
I have written in the past about the inclusion of social media terms in prenuptial agreements (“prenups”). In these prenups, the couple stipulates what type of online activity will be acceptable in the marital relationship. These agreements can also include penalties for a violation, such as additional household chores or paying a fine. Social media prenups are a relatively new concept, especially when considering the rapid growth of social media in recent years. To many, social media is an important concern that needs to be addressed proactively.
When confronted with the stress associated with a major life event like a divorce, eliminating social media altogether can be the healthiest choice. This is particularly important when children are involved. However, many people choose not to disconnect for many different reasons – social media is often the primary way people keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues. If social media stays in the picture, being aware of how online activity can have an effect on divorce negotiations can be helpful.
Making full and complete financial disclosure is an important part of the decision-making process in divorce. Online postings may contradict (or seem to contradict) the information exchanged. This may confuse or frustrate the process. People often share photos of expensive items purchased or “tag” themselves at an expensive restaurant. Some people post vacation itineraries and other travel plans. Similarly, “puff” pieces made for business purposes may lead to questions about whether the true value of the business has been disclosed. While some of these disclosures seem harmless, they can have unintended consequences. When online postings differ from (or are perceived to differ from) the information exchanged, the trust between the parties can be affected. This can impede negotiations.
Social media profiles can also affect the dynamics of custody negotiations. For example, a posting by one party that features a significant other or friend with the children of the marriage can create stress for the other party. Especially, if there has not been ample opportunity to discuss how new relationships will be introduced, or, if the new relationship is a surprise. This may also be confusing to the children.
As with most stressful situations, a healthy way to go through the separation and divorce process is to be aware of what you publish, who has access your information and how it could affect your divorce. If you maintain an active social media presence, here are a few considerations to keep in mind:
Be careful of the information you are posting:
As with the examples above, seemingly innocent photos or posts can indicate a lot more than you might think. It is also a good idea to refrain from airing any “dirty laundry” from your relationship or about your partner. Information like this may create more issues in the divorce process, including having a negative effect on the children.
Be mindful of the information others are posting:
Most social media sites allow users to “tag” others in photos, videos or other posts. Even if you limit your own posts, there may be other information accessible.
Know who your “friends” are:
To many people, a social media presence involves having as many “followers” and “friends” as possible. Your information may be accessible to people whom you have never met and don’t even know. Be cautious of who you allow to follow your pages, and check your security settings to be sure who can not only view your information, but has the ability to share it with others.
Don’t spend too much time online:
This may be much easier said than done, but is important nonetheless. When going through a life-changing event like a divorce, it can be difficult to keep your distance from your spouse. Viewing his/her social media is a way to remain connected. However, spending too much time viewing his/her information can cause unwanted stress.
Regardless of the amount or manner of your social media use, it is important to take stock of your online presence and take precautions to avoid unintended consequences to you and your family during and after the divorce.