Divorce and Social Media

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Divorce and Social Media

Divorce and Social Media

Sadly the statistics don’t lie.  It is estimated that some 40 to 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce courts these days.  What can we attribute this to?  Was the picking of a permanent partner more carefully thought out back in our parents’ day?  Perhaps couples just agreed to disagree and kept a stiff upper lip and carried on with the relationship for the sake of the children.  By the time the children were grown and out on their own, the polite air of civility was the norm and the relationship was comfortable, so the marriage continued until one or the other passed away.

Today though, our society seems less content to just be satisfied with making do in the relationship “until death do us part” and perhaps this accounts for the fact that nearly half of all marriages are doomed for divorce.  Of course, there are the exceptions like needing to extricate oneself from a threatening relationship where domestic violence is present or when one’s spouse has addiction issues which seem unlikely to be resolved, even through counseling, thus, there is a resignation that divorce will be the answer.

Yet, domestic violence and addiction issues cannot account for all the divorces that crowd the family law docket these days.  Why has the sanctity of marriage and a relationship that was so treasured become so seemingly disposable?

The younger generation and social media

One such statistic perhaps says it best:  “A young couple marrying for the first time today has a lifetime divorce risk of 40 percent, ‘unless current trends change significantly’.”

Yikes!  Well, that stat does not give much hope for the young couple who have decided to take the plunge into that lifetime commitment to another known as marriage vows.  It seems these days that the sanctity of marriage is not to be preserved, or efforts to resuscitate a floundering relationship are not as important as in the past.  But, why are we so quick to abandon that special relationship with the love of our life in a heartbeat and to start over?

It seems that social media has intruded into our life, exposing our indiscretions and flaunting them across the internet, as if we were somehow proud of our actions and intentions.  How sad when we cannot just confide to our best friend about the turmoil in our hearts and souls over our significant other, but we must send out blasts to the world?

And, as you will see below, the statistic of the younger set’s high divorce rate, may, in part, apply to them often being portrayed as spending endless hours on Facebook or other popular social media sites talking about the pros and cons of their love life, complete with pictures and comments about the travail of the day, but today – your parents, and even your grandparents are just as guilty for trotting out their personal pitfalls and posting them for all the world to see.

Social media can get ugly

January is no longer known as the best month to buy bedding, divorce lawyers will tell you that more divorces occur after the holiday season.  The biggest reason cited is social media.  Many months of regressed emotions and angry or hurtful words which roll off the tongue after a few too many drinks cause couples to scurry to a divorce lawyer.  Not surprisingly, they are armed to the teeth with “evidence” of their contentious relationship, and, what might that evidence consist of?  Well, Facebook becomes the most-popular means of venting your anger at your significant other via angry rants or posts with accompanying pictures or videos of your spouse behaving badly.  Divorce attorneys admit that evidence of “dueling camera phones” with each person snapping pictures of the other are a common practice these days.  Some examples of this bad behavior via social media are listed below.

After divorce proceedings are initiated with the filing of a petition or complaint for divorce, the respondent answers the petitioner’s statements, then begins a flurry of activity by respective counsel on behalf of their clients.  This fact and evidence gathering phase which occurs between the filing of initial paperwork and when the eventual divorce decree is issued, is called the “discovery phase”.  During this phase information is gathered by both sides, this includes things like bank records, proof of infidelity…  Nowadays postings procured from Facebook, Twitter or Instagram are routinely used for divorce cases, as well as for reduction of alimony or child support.  Sometimes the postings on social media are just chatter and considered irrelevant to the case, but in some incidents, those postings point to a person’s certain lifestyle, i.e. their spending habits, irresponsible behavior, even the lack of a good faith effort to get a job and to provide the court-ordered support for his ex-spouse and children.

You may ask why someone who is trying to promote their “poor me” image to lessen his/her legal and court-ordered responsibilities, when at the same broadcasting their lifestyle to the world via the internet?  One could liken it to the bank robber or murder who commits the crime, then boasts about it on social media, something that authorities find frequently happens.

An attorney/client relationship is privileged and a chance to be forthright about their real, as opposed to perceived, status, so that they don’t convey one persona in legal paperwork and another on social media.  It is becoming more and more common for family law attorneys to not just rely on the fact gathering and procurement of financial evidence to bolster their case for their client, but now they will scour social media sites for detrimental Facebook faux pas.  Such poorly thought-out postings might be used to evidence that your lifestyle is not what you portrayed and your suntanned visage on that extravagant tropical vacation certainly belies the fact that you are barely making ends meet with your job and thus cannot provide adequate spousal and child support.

The internet is forever

You’ve heard that old expression “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” meaning you might have had some silly indiscretions while on vacation, but, that was your vacation persona and not your everyday persona, the one that is respected and admired by family and friends.  But, social media, especially Facebook, makes it easy to share information that might be best kept private.

Since the launch of Facebook in February 2004, many people have lived to regret an indiscriminate posting by themselves or a photo where they were carelessly “tagged” by a Facebook friend which is there for the cyber world to see.  There must be thousands of articles on how to protect your privacy on Facebook so the world does not need to view your indiscretions, or foibles and character flaws, but most people choose to ignore these simple ways to keep from displaying your indiscretions to the world, sadly believing that these are pictures and posts shared between “friends”.  Perhaps you’ve appeared at the Friend of the Court as your ex cannot pay alimony or child support, yet that same ex-spouse who bemoans a lack of money to fulfill his court-ordered obligations is pictured with an extravagant toy or frolicking on the beach with a girlfriend at an exotic locale.  What about a trial separation when one party is posting about an evening with a girlfriend or boyfriend, all the while being legally married?  Or a man or woman who shucks a child custody schedule for imposed visitation with his children to head off for a weekend of fun in the sun, seemingly without a care in the world… that is, until it appears on Facebook.  Sure, that post and its incriminating picture can be taken down later, but who saw it and printed it out or took a screen capture in the meantime?  That seemingly innocent Facebook post might very well end up as fodder for the divorce proceeding… and, obviously not in your favor.

Facebook is not the only social media outlet to blame either.  A woman might ask for more support from her ex-husband, claiming her years as a stay-at-home mom did not permit her to hone the skills needed for a job that pays well, yet her LinkedIn profile shows her accomplishments and job skills, some which are endorsed by acquaintances and/or colleagues.

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