Social media has shaped the way we interact with others, both with our friends and the wider world. But it has also become a theatre for waging war against former spouses and partners, making it fairly commonplace to be used by aggrieved ex-spouses to malign the other. This article looks at the law concerning this area and offers guidance on utilising social media responsibly while going through a divorce.
What is the legal position on using social media during divorce?
Unlike other types of legal proceedings, divorce is private and should not be discussed on open public platforms. However, if you only wanted to announce on social media that you were divorcing, this is permissible provided you say nothing more. Although, even this could give rise to a flurry of letters from your ex’s solicitor, who feel that such an announcement is insensitive, particularly if you’re the one applying for divorce.
Fundamentally, anyone going through a divorce would be unwise to use social media to publish anything, even if they believe what they are saying to be true. Divorces can be painful and traumatic, and should be conducted discreetly, not least to avoid risking any children reading about their parents’ marriage online.
Will posting about my divorce on social media detrimentally affect my case?
Discussing court proceedings can seriously damage a case. If private details about an affair or unreasonable behaviour becomes public knowledge, you could find yourself subject to an injunction and face a significant costs order being made against you.
Making public statements is inflammatory and may affect the manner in which financial settlements and arrangements for children are negotiated, and will almost certainly result in increased costs for both parties. Also, the individual disclosing the details is at risk of being sued for defamation or libel, especially if the posts have caused them reputational damage. This will have significant costs implications.
Parties involved in family court proceedings are expected to maintain confidentiality regarding their case. Anyone found in breach of Section 97 of The Children Act 1989 or the Family Procedure Rules 12.73 and 12.75 could receive a prison sentence for contempt of court.
Social media do’s and don’ts during your separation or divorce
- As already discussed, ideally stop using social media or suspend your use/account during the course of the divorce proceedings.
- If you decide to stay on social media, don’t post anything negative about the other parent or their family members. Don’t use social media when you are upset or to vent. Ask yourself what your children would think if they read it.
- Change your passwords. You should ensure your ex does not have any access to your personal social media accounts. If you know your ex’s log-in details, don’t be tempted to use them.
- Change settings to the highest privacy levels. Ask friends not to tag you in their photos or posts. Accounts may have the highest privacy settings, but be aware that nothing online is ever truly private. Cyber-stalking or harassment puts you at risk, so unfriend or block those you are unlikely to be friends with after the divorce.
- Remove your relationship status from your “about me” section on Facebook. If you want to add it back following the divorce, you can do it then.
- Don’t post intimate photos or footage from your marriage. It is illegal to post intimate pictures or footage, and you could face a custodial sentence if found guilty.
- Don’t stalk your ex, however tempting this might be. You could consider blocking them and their close friends entirely.
- Be wary about who you are accepting as a new friend or follower, particularly if things between you and your ex are acrimonious. A new friend could be your ex in disguise, or one of their close family or friends intending to spy on you and gather information to use to their advantage.
Think about all your social media networks and the devices that information is stored on. This could be a home computer, mobile, tablet, laptop and even internet search profiles. Always think twice before pressing post or send and remember the general rule of thumb: if in doubt, don’t post.
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