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How Social Media Helps — and Hurts — Your Divorce

July 25, 2014

DailyWorth Expert

We educate, empower and support women before, during and after divorce.

ThinkFinancially.com

…But You Should Avoid the Social Media Minefield Yourself
Divorce is one arena in which the wrong picture, or the wrong post, can have devastating consequences. While it might be fair game to use that to your advantage, the more important thing is to make absolutely sure that you aren’t vulnerable yourself. 

Sometimes, appearance is all that matters. 

Suppose a group gathers to celebrate a friend’s birthday. You haven’t been out in ages, and it feels good to let your hair down… especially with the focus on your friend, not your divorce, which you’re totally sick of talking about anyway. Enjoying yourselves, you all raise a glass to her special day. Within minutes, there’s a picture on Instagram, and everyone’s tagged. Looking at it later, you notice that because of how you’re sitting, your shirt is pulled oddly to one side. Your makeup is smudgy. Worse, two friends on the other end of the table decided it would be funny to mock-kiss for the camera.

Unfortunately, you can fully expect this misleading photo to appear at your custody hearing. The takeaway: Don’t post pictures, and don’t allow yourself to be tagged in them.

Where status updates are concerned, keep mum. Don’t even indulge in “vaguebooking.” Posting merely, “ugh, I am SO OVER this” — even without referencing what it is you are SO OVER — can backfire. At best, it looks childish. At worst, the dates of such posts might be matched with events that have bearing on your case — and before you know it, you’ve provided enemies and friends alike with insights you should have kept private. Similarly, don’t post that you're “feeling loved,” even if you aren’t saying by whom. Save any hints of new romance until your divorce is final.

About Email and Text Messages
Many of us can barely remember a time when we didn’t communicate routinely by email or text. While email and texting aren’t quite what we mean when we talk about social media, they are worth discussing under the same umbrella, especially as social media apps increasingly offer their own messaging systems.  

Did you know that email and text messages can be admissible evidence in court? If you suspect your husband is being less than truthful on his Financial Affidavit, for example, it could be useful if a search of his subpoenaed emails brings up references to a recent bonus he hadn’t disclosed, or plans to make a major purchase that he shouldn’t be able to afford, given how broke he’s claiming to be. 

Consider Your Social Media Use to be Both Public and Permanent
Even with your privacy settings optimized, you should be comfortable with the idea that anything you post on social media will be online forever. Remember MySpace — the big thing before Facebook? Many people abandoned their pages, but didn’t delete them. Even Snapchat, the picture-sharing app that makes pictures “disappear” after a few seconds, is vulnerable to a screen shot by a photo’s recipient. (Snapchat has also introduced a messaging component, adding to your potential exposure.)

This infographic is a useful guideline for online conduct during divorce. And there’s always this simple rule: Never post, Tweet or share anything that you wouldn’t say in person, to the whole world, to be remembered forever. 

As a divorcing woman, you have good reason to minimize your online presence. There is a strong case to be made for deactivating Facebook, keeping Twitter activity down to following breaking news alerts, and suspending use of Instagram and Vine indefinitely. Until your settlement is final, the stakes may just be too high.

Jeffrey Landers is a member of the DailyWorth Experts program. Read more about the program here.

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