Spending too much time online is not necessarily a good thing for any relationship. However, the lure of those glowing screens can provide a distraction for many, providing people with countless ways to avoid having a face-to-face conversation with their spouse.
A big portion of online activity revolves around social media sites – which, despite being invented to bring us closer together, may ironically be a key culprit in driving partners apart. These sites can be damaging, presenting couples with false representations of their friends' perfect relationships, which will inevitably be compared to the flawed reality of their own.
But while the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can hardly be held solely accountable for instigating, fuelling, and cementing a marriage breakdown, it is probable that their frequent use can tip an already unstable marriage into complete collapse.
And not only are they a detriment to couples when they are in a marriage, social media can cause complications when it's time to get out of the relationship, as well.
In today's digital age, privacy has become harder and harder to maintain. This is why people are strongly urged to consider the content of their online profiles and make sure that there is nothing which could have a negative impact on their professional and personal lives later on. But it turns out that divorce cases are another reason why people should be very cautious about how they present their online identity, as the daily posting and sharing that many people partake in can sometimes have unintended effects on legal proceedings.
What problems does social posting present?
In short, anything that you publish or that others publish about you on the internet can be used as evidence and considered by the court when deciding on the key arrangements of the divorce, such as spousal maintenance and child arrangements.
For instance, some posts may cause problems if you have been dishonest about your financial situation. A lot may be inferred about a person's lifestyle from their public online activity, and if yours paints a different picture from what has been told to lawyers, this can cause you to pay increased maintenance or child support. That's why putting up a bragging post of you and a new partner on an expensive holiday abroad or of any luxurious purchases you've recently made may not be such a good idea after all. And it's not just your own posts, either – your friends' posts of you can hold damning evidence as well. Something to bear in mind if you have planned any extravagant nights out.
Also, just like you were no doubt told while job hunting (in case you scare off any prospective employers), you should never post anything that could be deemed as inappropriate or offensive. Among other things, posting unsavoury material could have a bearing on contact arrangements with children; a parent who proudly showcases their regular achievements in binge-drinking via their Facebook profile probably won't be viewed as the most suitable candidate for raising young children, for example.
How social media and the law can work together
But does social media have a more helpful role to play other than just acting as a tool to catch each other out? Recent events have suggested that yes, as a matter of fact it does. As seen countless times throughout history, when technology evolves, it is only natural for the world to evolve with it, utilising all of its benefits to help improve and modernise certain systems. This is no less true of social media, and last year saw Facebook being implemented in a vital role during a divorce case.
The 2015 case of Baidoo V. Blood-Dzraku saw social media being used as a necessary platform for the case to be able to proceed. When Ellanora Baidoo was unable to track down her husband, Victor Blood-Dzraku, to serve him with divorce papers, the court allowed for the notice to be sent over Facebook private messaging. Sending your soon-to-be ex-husband or wife a summons through the informal method of instant messaging, while perhaps far from ideal, at least feels a lot more direct and accurate than publishing a notice in a newspaper, which is one of the normal alternative methods of notifying a defendant when they cannot be reached through any other means. The judge agreed that the rising power and influence of social networking sites has led to them being the "next frontier" in how papers can be delivered.
As the ruling stated, the "ascendency" of social media has led to the justification of its use in litigation – and this 'use' is only expected to grow further as more and more people become connected.
Like all major technological advancements, social media is a marvel that brings with it both good and bad. If you are about to go through a divorce and want the whole process to run as smoothly and quickly as possible, the best piece of advice is simply this: keep your private life private. It may be hard to judge what implications your social posts will have in court, so you need to think very carefully before everything you tweet/share/like, and it really isn't a bad idea to try your best to avoid social media sites altogether – at least until the case is settled.
Contact Oratto on 0845 3883765 to speak with a family law adviser or use our contact form to arrange a call-back.