Every day I think that I have heard it all, and then there will be a new issue involving social media and my divorce clients. The "e" in e-mail stands for evidence.
The following are some of my thoughts about this critical issue that impacts everyone who deals with divorce – from the divorcing couple themselves to the lawyers, certified divorce financial analysts, mediators, or therapists who work in the divorce arena.
The internet is a major source of addiction.
People are more dishonest online than they are in face-to-face relationships because it is easier to lie when you have some anonymity.
Many affairs begin online through Facebook and other social media sites. I have had clients reconnect with old high school sweethearts and literally move across the country in the middle of a divorce. In one case, a mother abandoned her children and my client, the father, and then got full custody of their three children.
The internet is a major source for pornography. X-rated websites are everywhere.
People can become addicted to online games. I have had cases where children have dropped out of school due to addiction to online games.
The internet is a source for day trading and many couples have lost their life savings.
Gambling online is another significant factor that has resulted in numerous divorces.
There is a lot of stalking and bullying online.
It is relatively easy to access drugs online. In 2013, the owner of the “Silk Road” website (an online black market and the first modern darknet market) was sentenced to life in prison for dealing illegal narcotics through this very successful site. Although the FBI shut down the Silk Road site, various successor sites continue to pop up.
People spend thousands of dollars shopping online. Press a key and the new item is yours!
You can be anyone you want to be online. It is easy to be deceptive. I had a client who ran off to England for another man and was in reality duped by a Nigerian scam where she lost thousands of dollars in marital funds.
I would like to now provide some advice that I give to my clients about the dangers and pitfalls of the internet and social media:
Do not post messages or photos on Facebook or other sites that can come back to haunt you.
Think twice before participating in intimate photos or videos at any time. Recently, people running revenge porn sites have been sentenced to long prison terms.
Be careful what you say in emails and texts. They can be used against you as evidence in a divorce.
If you post at all, be discreet. Think before you post.
Monitor your children. Children’s access to computers can become a major issue. I have a case where my client’s young daughters have been exposed to pornography when left unattended by their father who left them with his girlfriend’s 11-year-old daughter.
Deleted does not mean gone. There is always a permanent record of your emails and other postings. This is where forensic experts can become so important in a divorce action.
This blog just touches the surface of these important issues; this issue is so crucial that I devoted an entire chapter to it in my book, Divorce Demystified (Momentum Books, 2014). I have done webinars on this critical topic as well as lecturing on what is legal and illegal in the digital world. The bottom line is that you should not underestimate the impact of social media on divorce in this age of smartphones, tablets, and computers. These are just a few of my thoughts on the subject; please share your thoughts with me.