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Social Media: A Bad Idea for Breakups (In Court and Out)

By Sheryl Rentz on May 7, 2019

two adults using a cellphone

Whatever you’re feeling about your ex right now, take our advice – and don’t post about it online. Don’t Tweet your frustrations. Don’t upload a rant to Facebook or repost a funny article about how to murder your wife. Don’t double-tap something on Instagram, implying that you believe men are inherently less competent parents.

In short, you should probably forego social media altogether if you’re getting a divorce – even if your relationship is just starting to disintegrate!

We’ve all seen how an innocuous statement, or a joke, can be taken out of context and used to vilify the person who posted it. You know your estranged partner is probably watching you.

Well, so is their divorce lawyer. And setting your account to “private” is not enough.

Who’s “At Fault” for a Divorce?

Since Pennsylvania passed a law in 2005 allowing couples to divorce without stating a reason, most couples opt for a no-fault divorce. However, there are seven “grounds” or reasons you can offer to justify your divorce to the court. They are:

  • Infidelity
  • Bigamy
  • Incarceration
  • Insanity
  • Abandonment
  • Physical or verbal abuse
  • Continual poor treatment

Social media can be used as direct evidence in these divorces. Though marital misconduct does NOT affect the way property is divided up in PA, it could have a bearing on other aspects of the case. For example, if either spouse has posted pictures of drug paraphernalia or partying, the court would take that into consideration when signing off on a child custody agreement. Proof of infidelity may affect the amount of alimony awarded to the “unfaithful” spouse, as well. Even excessive time spent on your phone can be cited as a cause of the breakdown of the marriage.

Revenge porn – the act of releasing intimate pictures of a partner without consent – is another factor, since it is a second-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania if committed by an adult. Often, these photos are held hostage and used to blackmail one partner into submission. You need to contact a lawyer immediately if your soon-to-be ex starts making such threats. The law is on your side, and it may be appropriate to have blackmail or extortion charges filed against them.

“Show Me the Money”

Social media posts may also reveal “hidden” assets, or prove that one spouse has enough money to go to sporting events, though they claim they don’t have enough to pay a certain amount of child support. Remember, text messages may also be scrutinized and used against you, as well.

According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 97% of surveyed members had seen an increase in evidence originating from wireless devices such as smartphones; 99% through text messages. Most came from these apps:

  • Facebook (41%)
  • Twitter (17%)
  • Instagram (16%)
  • Find My iPhone (6%)
  • Snapchat (6%)
  • Google Maps (4%)
  • Google+ (3%)
  • WhatsApp (1%)
  • Tinder (1%)

Any digital account is up for review. In high-net-worth divorce cases, many family law attorneys will hire private investigators and engage third-party software to search for any indication of bad behavior. For example, having an app like Ashley Madison®, which is designed to assist with cheating on a romantic partner, would go a long way to prove infidelity.

Guidelines for Using Social Media During a Breakup

The good news? If you hire a skilled divorce attorney, like our team at the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., we will also be investigating your spouse’s social media on your behalf. We know what to look for and how to track down the pertinent information. But while we do, we recommend that you:

  • Never write down, post, or upload what you don’t want a judge to see. Don’t talk about your daily struggles or how much you hate your ex. Don’t even post happy pictures of you going out or doing things with your friends.
  • Stay off online platforms altogether, and deactivate your accounts. Don’t delete them, because that may be viewed as “destroying evidence.”
  • Ask your friends not to mention you or your case on their accounts, and not to post anything that portrays you in a negative light.
  • Do not use your “social media friends” as an emotional support system. They may flip sides or copy information to give to your ex.

In an acrimonious divorce case, your very character and credibility will be called into question, and social media can either help or harm you. Be wise, stay silent, and let your lawyer do the talking. Remember, even after the dust has settled and the court has issued its final orders, you should still be careful online, because your ex can petition to modify an order if they see evidence of perceived wrongdoing or unfairness.

Have questions about your own pending breakup? Want to speak to an experienced Montgomery County divorce lawyer at our office in a free consultation? Please call (610) 645-0100 to schedule an appointment. We have been handling divorces in Pennsylvania for over 25 years, and we innovate in this age of digital technology. The sooner you reach out, the sooner we can protect you and advocate for your best interests.

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