Consensus Collaboration Scotland, an organisation dedicated to helping couples divorce in as collaborative, amicable and friendly a manner as possible, has urged separating couples to think about the potential consequences of posting details on social media.
Social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snap Chat are hugely popular. However, a spur of the moment post about something your former partner has said or done could cause you problems further along the line.
The primary concern of many couples during a divorce or separation is the impact that the split could have upon their children. If a couple have a particularly difficult separation, it can be even more painful for children. Children can sometimes get the impression that they are to blame for their parent’s split if they hear shouting and arguments. If one parent criticises the other parent in front of the children, the children can feel that they are caught in the middle of the fight.
Social media sites are often used by teenagers, and increasingly even by pre-teens, so any disparaging posts about one of their parents could be extremely upsetting.
However, beyond the emotional damage that can be caused, posting on social media sites can have a detrimental impact on the financial settlement you get from the divorce.
If you were to post about your new car, expensive holiday or promotion, you might alert your former partner, and by extension their lawyer, about your wealth. Even though you may have removed your previous partner from social media, you are likely to have friends in common who can pass on knowledge of your good news. This means that details you may have wished to keep secret from your spouse’s lawyers become known. This could have an adverse effect on the financial settlement that you can get.
Scottish lawyer Anne-Marie Douglas has said, “Remember that everything you do online becomes part of your digital footprint – it’s like a public logbook of your life. Social media and online activity also provide a digital time stamp. It could provide a potential trail of evidence that may be hard to explain away.”
For this reason, many lawyers recommend that you completely avoid social media during a separation.
However, social media has become such an important part of our lives that we are unlikely to want to cut it out completely.
You can take steps to moderate your social media use following a divorce. Before you post anything, you should seriously consider if you are happy with this knowledge being put out on the internet. Consider your privacy settings – sometimes a social media site will update, and privacy settings will change. If you have not selected the strongest privacy settings, anyone may be able to read your updates. You should always remember that when you post something online it can stay there forever, and could come back to haunt you in the future.
Molly McGrady is a legal writer based in Scotland writing about topics such as divorcing in Scotland.