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Be wary about using social media when divorcing

On behalf of Joe Lucas at Lucas Law

Many Illinois residents use electronic communication and social media frequently — even routinely — without giving much thought to the possible consequences. Those consequences, though, can be serious for people going through a divorce.

Comments are not private

Most divorce attorneys have seen social networking and other electronic evidence used more frequently in divorce cases over the last five years, according to a survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

People are becoming more aware that posting on blogs and online social media, like Facebook, are not private. However, many people may not realize that even text messages can be exposed and used as evidence in a divorce. According to a private investigator, some phones can store text messages for years, depending on the phone's memory capacity. The messages can be subpoenaed, accessed and brought into court.

Impact on divorce proceedings

Statements posted online or texted can have direct effects on a divorce. Simply badmouthing an ex-spouse is not illegal, but there can be unintended consequences. In one incident, a woman made negative comments about her husband in a blog post while going through a divorce. She called him untrustworthy, a cheat and a liar. When the husband's boss read the blog, he reacted negatively, and the husband's career suffered as a result. The long-term consequences were lower wages for the husband and fewer resources to provide for the wife and children after the divorce.

Going public with negative comments about an ex-spouse can look bad to a judge, as well. Judges usually do not like to see one parent denigrating the other, and may rule on support and custody issues against a parent writing negative messages.

In addition, posts and texts from people about their own lives can expose a wealth of potentially harmful information. For example, people who post on Facebook about taking expensive vacations will find it hard to support their claim that they cannot afford to pay child support. In one case, a father involved in a custody battle — who claimed he had quit drinking years before — found it impossible to defend his position when confronted with a text message he had sent his wife asking her to pick up some beer.

Sound advice

Divorce attorneys recommend that their clients not post or text anything they would not want a judge to read. It is wise not to write when angry or to goad a spouse into responding inappropriately.

Consulting with an Illinois divorce attorney about the use of social media and texts is a good idea for anyone going through a divorce. An experienced attorney who has seen the effects of these forms of communication can provide sound advice in each individual's situation.

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