Social media has not been with us all that long – Facebook only opened to the public in 2006, after all – but it has gone from being a niche world for high school and college students to something nearly everyone is one. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or one of the dozens of other sites and apps, people from all walks of life and backgrounds are posting everyday things that may seem harmless and inconsequential at the time. But when a divorce happens, suddenly all those social media posts and messages can cause a panic attack. Will that drunken party photo show up in court one day? What about that ridiculously heated political argument you got in in the comments section of the CNN article? Or the photo that a new romantic interest put up of the two of you on Instagram? Can all of these things hurt you in a complex divorce trial? Maybe, maybe not.
“Fault” Is No Longer a Factor in Nearly All States
In decades past, it was the case that one spouse had to prove “fault” in the form of an issue such as adultery or abandonment to obtain a divorce. Nowadays, nearly all states have moved to granting “no fault” divorces, meaning that neither party is required to prove to the court that there was anything egregious done by either party. All a no fault divorce requires is that at least one of the spouses wants out of the marriage, and the court will grant it (although Pennsylvania does enforce a one-year waiting period for no-fault divorces).
What does this all have to do with your social media posts? Basically, the courts are no longer in the business of deciding who was a jerk and who wasn’t in the marriage, and whether you both acted like fools on social media, neither did, or only one of you did, the divorce will be granted nonetheless.
That said, there are a number of issues within the divorce proceeding itself that could be affected by social media posts and messages.
How Social Media Can Affect Your Divorce
Ideally, you and your spouse will reach a settlement agreement in your divorce so that you can avoid having to pay lawyers fight these issues out before a judge in court. Your settlement agreement will cover all issues, including: alimony (or spousal support as it is often called), the division of your marital property between the two of you, any child support that should be paid, and all matters of child custody and visitation. Courts prefer you do this, and, so long as the agreement is fair in light of state law, the judge should approve it. In such a case, your social media shenanigans are of no interest to the judge.
But understand that reaching such an agreement is a delicate task, requiring the two spouses to work together to reach an agreement on extremely important financial and relational issues. Social media posts that antagonize the other spouse or family members by talking badly about them – or posts that show you parading around with a new love interest – will probably not help with this process, so avoid them.
Social Media in a Contested Divorce
If you cannot agree on such matters, the court will have to decide, and your social media posts could definitely come into play inasmuch as they affect those proceedings. For example, if you are claiming to be in dire financial need in your request for spousal or child support (or in a response to such a request) but you have photographs of you living an extravagant life, the judge is going to be none too pleased and your word may not be taken seriously in court.
With regard to child custody, most courts base these decisions on the best interests of the child. If you have social media posts which seem to indicate that you are angry, unstable, reckless, or otherwise not in a position to act as a fit parent and serve the best interests of your child, such posts can bite you in a big way.
In all matters, speak with a family law attorney who can advise you on your rights and obligations in your divorce and guide you towards positive outcomes in your matter.
Get Help With Your PA Divorce Matter Today
At The Martin Law Firm, P.C., our family law team works with men and women across Southeastern Pennsylvania in divorce matters, and we are committed to serving your needs in a compassionate and efficient manner. Call us today for a no-hassle consultation regarding any questions you have about divorce in Pennsylvania.