Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are taking over people’s lives. Many people live their lives through social media on a daily basis and many of these people could be going through a divorce or separation.
As family lawyers, we have noticed a rising trend in couples using social media posts as evidence in their divorce, in both finance and children matters. We have also noticed the Courts moving with the times and accepting social media posts as evidence.
From our experience at Court, social media posts have been used as evidence of what NOT to do.
Here are some examples of these:
1. Changing your relationship status on Facebook
One of the easiest mistakes to make is denying being in a new relationship or being engaged, to avoid negative reactions from a potentially jealous ex when trying to sort out the childcare arrangements for example. The individual however then changes their relationship status to “in a relationship” or “engaged” on social media. It is never a good idea to tell your solicitor or the Court one thing and then do another on social media. Cohabitation is also a factor in relation to financial matters when divorcing. Whilst at present there isn’t a “in a cohabiting relationship” status, a case can be built up if there is a denial of cohabitation but posts and updates are available about the new partner moving in for example.
2. Photos and posts of your new partner
Marriages or relationships often break down for very emotional reasons, such as an affair or meeting someone new. This can be extremely upsetting for the other person. We try to promote amicable divorces but sometimes the actions of those in the marriage can make this difficult. If for example an affair has led to the marriage breaking down, then it would be best for the person who has had the affair to not flaunt the new relationship on social media if it is likely to cause angst. Trying to reach an agreement in relation to the finances and children in these circumstances may be more difficult. Trying to reach any agreement whilst being emotionally charged is likely to slow the process down and potentially cost more.
3. Pleading poverty but posting lavish holidays
This tends to be an issue when we deal with queries involving child maintenance and spousal maintenance claims. One may claim a significant reduction in income since separation, meaning they cannot afford to pay as much child or spousal maintenance. The Child Maintenance Service deals with child maintenance. Their calculator, which works out how much a paying parent must pay, is based on the paying parent’s gross income. Spousal maintenance is dealt with by solicitors and the Court if necessary. It is based upon net disposable income; net income less expenditure. Social media posts can be used as evidence to dispute an assertion by a paying parent or spouse that they have no money, where their lifestyle doesn’t seem to support it. This can be pictures or posts about lavish holidays, a new Porsche or expensive modifications to a home for example. Arguing limited income where social media paints a different picture is a bad idea.
4. “Checking in” to Court
Checking in on Facebook to let everyone know where they are is commonplace. Maybe the airport before a holiday or a lovely restaurant/bar for example. It’s not really appropriate to say you are at Court followed by a negative comment as to why you are there. This could relate to finance or children hearings. This can easily be brought to the Judge’s attention by the other side and they will come down hard on the person who has “checked in”. It’s a bad idea to start off on the wrong foot with the Judge. So don’t “check in” to Court.
5. Airing your dirty washing
It is never a good idea to publicly name and shame your ex on social media. It is simple to save and print out these posts as evidence. It also does not help with trying to reach an amicable agreement. It will only inflame matters. Even if the ex has been blocked or “unfriended”, there is usually always a chance that someone will show the posts to your ex. This should be particularly avoided in children cases because the Court frowns upon any parent who bad-mouths the other. Negative remarks about the other parent should never be made in front of children, either directly or indirectly. Overall it is best to keep details about your separation or divorce away from social media. You never know what could be used against you or the damaging effect it could have on your future, your ex and your children. It could lead to expensive, drawn-out litigation, which ultimately you want to avoid.
For more advice on family law issues such as divorce, finances, children matters and court proceedings, please contact one of our Associate Solicitors, Kirsten Tomlinson on 01625 544 650 or email Kirsten.Tomlinson(a)family-law.co.uk.
We have a large team and can offer family law advice at any of our locations as follows:- Wilmslow 01625 544650 Knutsford 01565 648228 London 0207 9474219 Manchester 0161 8048441