We all turn to the Internet for answers — and those going through a divorce are no exception.
It’s important to recognize, though, that while technology and social media are powerful tools that can help in the divorce process, they can also interfere with it. As a result, it’s critical to exercise caution and understand how to handle the Internet during divorce
Going through a separation is hard enough – the last thing you need is to do something wrong by relying on the Internet for a ‘Do-It-Yourself’ divorce or airing your dirty laundry, both of which may come back to haunt you later. Even one small, wrong move can lead to big consequences in court.
So how is the Internet helpful and when is it not? Here are some tips for couples going through a divorce.
4 Tips On How to Handle the Internet During Divorce
1. Stick To the Facts
The Internet is an excellent source of information when it comes to general statements on the law. It’s worthwhile to spend time online educating yourself, but be careful not to make assumptions based on what you’ve read since each situation is fact-specific to the individuals involved.
Avoid making a determination on your particular circumstances without speaking with a professional who knows the law thoroughly, and how to apply it to your case. Think of it like going to a doctor: a family lawyer can help you diagnose your particular case and confirm your entitlements, including custodial rights.
2. Avoid Self-Representation
Because information available online includes items such as court forms, some people choose to file their own divorce applications. While this practice may seem to be time and money-saving, it can actually result in the opposite in the long run. Couples who try to navigate the complex legal system themselves may find their court applications rejected, adding complications to an already stressful situation.
It’s impossible to replace the experience and expertise of lawyers specializing in family law – who know the ins and outs of the divorce process – with documents found online. To a non-lawyer, the court procedure is often more complex than the law itself.
3. Keep Quiet on Social Media
It may feel good in the moment, but venting on social media can severely damage a divorce case.
Family law disputes often happen between couples behind closed doors where a lot of oral statements are made that are difficult to prove. Verbal ‘he said, she said’ statements are less valuable in court because they can’t be proven. In contrast, if someone posts something online, it serves as material evidence in a court of law as it was written voluntarily for public viewing.
Court cases are built on evidence and regardless of your privacy settings, keep in mind that any personal thoughts posted on social media about your separation – positive as well as negative – can be used against you and are there forever. Name-calling and posting damaging or hurtful comments about your spouse can be a nail in the coffin in obtaining joint custody.
The court is a creature of the ‘paper’ trail, and once it’s out there, you won’t be able to get it back, which could negatively impact your case. Even posting positive comments about your spouse may help your spouses’ custody case while harming yours.
4. Put Away the Camera
Stay away from posting photos and videos online. Photos and videos are frequently used in attempts to prove adultery, and can also affect custody and spousal support rulings. Even a harmless photo of someone holding a friend’s hand can easily be misconstrued and that person may suddenly find themselves defending against an adultery claim.
Similarly, if you’re claiming an inability to fulfill financial obligations, don’t share photos of yourself on a lavish vacation. Even posting photos or videos of your kids is a no-no as they can be misinterpreted, or perhaps there’s something you didn’t notice in the background that may call your parenting skills into question.
Do Not Air Your Dirty Laundry Online. Period.
Why make such a private dispute public? Think about this: What would a judge think about you writing a negative public message about your former spouse online for the world to see? The No. 1 social media mistake people going through a divorce make is writing negative things about their spouse online.
Don’t write anything negative about your spouse and children, or discuss your personal divorce, online. Remember that a judge can form a poor impression of you and question your judgment based on your online behavior, which can ultimately affect your case. The best rule of thumb is to keep in mind that if you don’t post anything online, it can’t be used against you.
It is crucial to understand how to handle the Internet during divorce. The pervasiveness of technology and social media impact our everyday lives, and their impact on divorce proceedings cannot be underestimated.
Barry Nussbaum is a Senior Lawyer at Nussbaum Family Law, a practice dedicated exclusively to family law in Toronto. Servicing clients throughout the GTA, the team specializes in issues related to separation and divorce, child custody, and spousal support. Aiming to resolve disputes through mediation and negotiation, the practice has extensive experience in litigating cases in both the Superior Court and Ontario Court of Justice. www.nussbaumlaw.ca