Going through a divorce can be tumultuous, to say the least. Even under ideal circumstances, where you and your partner agree that divorce is necessary and you work to remain amicable throughout, it can turn your life upside down as you wade through the challenges of dividing a household, time with children, and life as you know it.
During this time, you may turn to a variety of sources for support and guidance, from family and friends to public resources, to an attorney or other professionals. You may even seek solace in social media, relying on your community of followers for advice, sympathy, and general emotional support.
What you might not think about when you’re posting your grievances about the divorce process or showing how you’re moving on with your life is that this information could be used against you in divorce proceedings. Even cordial divorces can turn sour if you publicly spill the tea on your spouse or broadcast your dating exploits. And if you’re dealing with an abusive or vengeful partner and a contentious divorce, it could be much worse.
While you don’t have to swear off social media entirely, you’ll definitely want to take a step back and think about the impact your online activity might have during your divorce. What social media mistakes should you avoid if you don’t want to add fuel to the fire?
1. Bad-Mouthing Your Partner
This is a major no-no, whether you’re currently in the process of divorcing or you have many years of joint custody hand-offs to look forward to. When your spouse misbehaves, or you’re just dealing with a lot of emotions, it can be tempting to vent frustrations to your online community but remember that what you post can live on the internet forever, even if you delete it after the fact.
It doesn’t matter if your partner is the one who left or if cheating took place. It doesn’t matter if they’re bad-mouthing you or spreading lies. It doesn’t matter if they’re behaving badly, treating you poorly, or going back on agreements you made before or during the divorce. You cannot use these details as an excuse to criticize their character or make accusations.
The problem is, when you post the intimate details of your deteriorating relationship online, it may have the opposite effect of what you intend. Instead of showing your spouse in a bad light, it could make you look petty and call your character and your credibility into question. This isn’t a great scenario when you’re trying to get spousal support or child custody, for example. It’s not easy to be the bigger person, but it can help you accomplish your long-term goals for divorce outcomes.
2. Discussing the Details of Your Divorce
Social media is not the place to air grievances about the difficulties of the divorce process. It might be tempting to “tell your side of the story,” especially if your spouse is doing the same, but this can only lead to trouble.
Maybe you want to boast about your legal strategy or share your financial woes. Perhaps you’re steamed about things your spouse is saying to a mediator or judge. Posting these details online could gain you a temporary social and emotional boost of support from your followers, but certain details could be used against you to harm your case.
This is especially true when it comes to information concerning your kids. As a parent, you have a responsibility to protect the privacy of your children. Yes, they are part of your life, and you may want to share your special moments and events with your followers, particularly close family and friends, but it could easily backfire.
You’ve probably heard the Miranda warning phrase, “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” While you’re not under arrest and you’re not really on trial, consider what could happen if the things you post privately make their way into the hands of your partner’s lawyers and the judge in your case. Oversharing the tawdry details of your divorce online is not a good look.
3. Posting About Your Newly Single Life
Nothing is likely to turn your partner against you faster than seeing posts of you dating someone new. Losing a person you love can feel like an open wound, and when you replace your partner with someone else, it’s like rubbing salt in that wound.
You are absolutely free to date before your divorce is final. Maybe your relationship ended long before you decided to call it quits, and you’re ready to enjoy romance in your life again. Perhaps your spouse left or cheated, and you want the comfort and support of a new romantic partner. You are an adult, and you’re allowed to make these decisions for yourself.
That said, posting dating pics is inviting trouble. You might not think it will get back to your spouse, but you should always assume it will. Think how you might feel seeing pics of your partner canoodling with someone else, looking happy and carefree while you’re sitting at home, suffering.
Even if you’re with someone, too, you may have irrational feelings of jealousy simply because it takes time to get over a failed marriage. Assume this is how your spouse will feel. If you don’t want the drama that’s likely to ensue when you post pics of your dating exploits, the best option is to hold off on sharing until the divorce is final.
4. Posting About Your Social Life
Social media is designed to create and maintain social connections, but that doesn’t mean it’s wise to post every moment of socializing in the real world. When you split from your spouse, you may be keen to get back out there, reliving your youth, partying with friends, and having some fun.
There’s nothing technically wrong with this. You’re an adult, and you’re allowed to date, party, hit the clubs, go bar hopping, and live your best life. However, splashing your newly unrestrained lifestyle all over social media might not be the best look when you’re fighting for custody and child support, for example. You don’t want a judge to think you’re irresponsible.
5. Posting About Mental Health Concerns
To be clear, it’s not a great idea to keep mental health concerns to yourself. It’s natural to deal with emotional trauma as you go through the process of separating your life from a person you love, who you thought you were going to grow old with. Not only is your partner gone, but you’ve lost the entire future you had planned together.
Even if you’re the one who wanted a divorce, or it was a decision you and your partner reached mutually, you might feel anger, sadness, shame, and a range of negative emotions. You might even veer into depression, self-medication, or thoughts of suicide. If this happens, you should absolutely seek help, whether you express your concerns to trusted family and friends or you speak with a professional like a psychologist or psychiatrist.
What you don’t want to do is post about private health matters on social media for everyone to see. If you happen to be going through a contentious divorce, for example, a vindictive partner might use this information to petition for full custody of children or try to make you look crazy when you present testimony. Avoid the whole issue by simply keeping your mental health status off social media.
6. Assuming Your Posts Are Private
It doesn’t matter what kind of privacy settings you use or if you have multiple socials under different names. You should always assume that your spouse can gain access to your profiles and share that information with their attorney and the judge. While you might block your partner, their family, and friends, you still have many followers who could offer up access to your posts.
Take a moment to think about how many mutual friends follow your socials. You might want to believe they’re on your side, but chances are good that loyalties will be split in some cases, and the people who are your friends could easily pass the information you share on to your spouse.
They might do so for any number of reasons. Perhaps they don’t like what you’re posting and think your behavior toward your ex is unfair. Maybe your spouse is telling lies about you to garner support. Whatever the case, you can never be too careful. The things you don’t share online are far less likely to get back to your spouse and harm your case.
7. Posting When You’re Not Sure It’s a Good Idea
Social media is a powerful tool for connecting with family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers with shared interests. When you create profiles and start sharing, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking everyone following you is your friend and has your best interests at heart.
As a result, you may overshare, posting personal details that should be kept private. Some amount of common sense can help you when deciding what to share. For example, you obviously wouldn’t want to post incriminating photos that show you engaging in illegal activity, for example.
What about posting a photo of yourself enjoying a drink at a friend’s party? What if you upload a photo of you and your kids having fun with your new romantic partner? These may seem innocuous, but taken out of context, they could impact your divorce case.
While you don’t necessarily have to stop participating in social media during your divorce, if you’re unsure about posting something, consult with your attorney. A good rule of thumb is: when in doubt, just don’t post.
Put Your Best Interests First
Social media isn’t all bad – you’ve probably used it to connect to long-lost friends and even make new ones. That said, if you’re not careful, it can turn toxic and cost you a lot in your divorce. Putting yourself first could mean taking a break from social media for a while or at least tempering your urge to post every intimate detail of your life during your divorce.
If you need help determining the best ways to reach your goals throughout the divorce process, DivorcePlus has the free public resources you need, along with access to a range of professionals that can steer you right and put your best interests first.