In some ways, new advances in technology can make surviving a divorce much easier. For example, email, video chat services, and online scheduling products can potentially make communicating with your children while they are in the care of your former spouse easier. In other ways, however, technology’s role in our daily lives may become a trap for the unwary. Too often, former spouses take to popular social networking websites like Facebook to vent or complain about one another. Doing so can create a variety of legal headaches.
Getting divorced normally leads to a host of emotions. It is understandable that many divorcing spouses seek to discuss their situation and concerns with friends and loved ones. Still, making negative statements about your former spouse on the Internet or in another public forum may lead to legal troubles down the road. In 2010, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that 81 percent of attorneys surveyed saw an increase in the use of online social media evidence in divorce cases over the previous five years. If in doubt, it is always best to take the high road and keep your grievances off of the Internet.
If you are in the midst of a divorce or separation, it is important to consider that what you write about your former spouse can potentially get you sued. Although you may express your opinions, you may not lie in order to impugn your former spouse’s reputation. For example, if you call your ex a deadbeat and allege that he or she has failed to meet child support obligations that were in fact met, you could be sued for libel. A former spouse may also not harass or stalk their ex using the Internet.
Whether or not any statements made online merit legal action, it is important for both former spouses to understand that ranting on social media websites may harm both your children and your divorce case. If your former spouse’s employer has access to the negative statements you made regarding your ex, it may have an effect on his or her job, and corresponding ability to meet financial support obligations. Additionally, family court judges rarely appreciate reading incendiary tweets, Facebook updates, or blog posts, and such behavior will likely be taken into account when child custody and alimony awards are determined.
If you are concerned about what your former spouse may say about you online, it might be a good idea to negotiate protections into your marriage settlement agreement or ask the judge to prohibit such behavior. For example, a family court judge recently issued a gag order in the divorce proceedings between former NFL star and Major League Baseball player Deion Sanders and his wife, Pilar, amidst allegations of nasty tweets. Finally, if either you or your former spouse have said negative things about one another online, the easiest way to undo at least some of the damage is to issue a simple apology.