For many people, an important part of their lives takes place online. Social networks like Facebook, Instagram and Co are a mass phenomenon. Especially in turbulent times like divorces or separations, some people are tempted to communicate virtually. People may want to vent their anger or share their own experiences. But be cautious, a divorce and social media don’t always get along.
Even if the personal disappointment is understandable: It is legally not recommended to share insults or (intimate) details about the (former) partner or the breakup on social networks. Insults, defamation and cyberbullying can not only result in criminal consequences, but also make you liable for damages.
Divorce and social media – Do not provide the other side with evidence!
In family law conflicts, however, there is even more to consider: not only potential employers look around on social media before hiring someone. In divorce proceedings, too, it’s often worth taking a look at the respective virtual profiles. Photos from social networks can be useful as evidence in court proceedings. A Facebook/Instagram profile can turn out to be a real treasure trove if you want to prove, for example, that a person is having an affair or that he or she does not have the money to pay child support but goes on expensive luxury vacations.
Attention: Principle of fault in Austria
Especially before a divorce, caution is advised. Many people are not aware that cheating is still a serious marital fault and that it can be expensive. It is therefore not advisable to publish photos in which you are already cuddling with your new partner on a love vacation, even though you are still married. There is a duty of “decency” between spouses. In this regard, countless admiring postings under photos of lightly dressed third parties are therefore not helpful.
Holding back with divorce and social media – also after a divorce
But it is not only before or during divorce proceedings that restraint may be advisable. Even in the context of custody or contact rights proceedings, it is not beneficial if photos circulate on social networks that suggest an enthusiasm for alcohol and substance abuse, or at least could be interpreted as such. Even photos that may be meant to be funny -of the baby with the beer bottle- can reflect negatively on a person’s parenting skills in court. It is just as tricky to publish photos of the joint children if the other parent does not want this. In this context, the principle of mutual consent must be observed. This means that parents should coordinate on important matters and seek consensus.
In acute conflict, the rule is: Don’t post anything!
People often underestimate how many people they reach over social media or overestimate their privacy settings. Even if you think you’re “in private” because you’ve blocked your (ex-)partner and believe you’ve denied access: Screenshots shared by mutual acquaintances spread quickly. Also it is VERY important to immediately change your passwords and access data for both e-mail and social networks whenever you separate!
Loss of alimony because of social media?
Even after divorce proceedings, caution is advised when it comes to social media use. Of course, you can share things that pertain to your own life without hesitation. But if one has published false accusations, persistent insults or intimate details about the other person that can harm him or her, this can possibly even affect a hard-won alimony claim.
When you are unsure if you should post something: Just don´t
If you are unsure whether something can be posted or not: When in doubt, leave it alone. If you do post, it may help to use the most conservative person in your circle of acquaintances as a mental (or moral?) compass.
Especially in the context of a family crisis, it is advisable not to share any content that is too private, to think twice about whether published information can be used against you (in court), and to unload frustration on good friends or therapists rather than on the Internet.