Can Facebook and Twitter use lead to divorce?

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter could have a negative impact on countless marriages across America.

Social networks are now truly engrained in our society. Nearly every business (and many an individual) has not only a website, but also a Facebook page, Twitter feed or Instagram account. Millions of users check their social media networks multiple times a day, sharing tidbits about their lives, catching up with loved ones and posting pictures for friends and family to see.

For all the positive impact these sites have, including allowing people to stay in touch across the miles and giving businesses the ability to reach new customers, recent studies suggest that there could be some big drawbacks to the connectedness we feel online. The more time we spend hooked to our computers, tablets or smart phones is time taken away from real world interactions. Excess social media use could even lead to divorce.

We have all heard stories about old boyfriends or girlfriends reconnecting on social networks and then resuming their relationships regardless of currently having spouses and families. Clearly, that situation - two people having a physical affair - could easily lead to divorce. Other situations aren't so clear-cut. If studies like the one published in the July 2014 issue of the industry journal Computers in Human Behavior are to be believed, then sharing a powerful emotional connection with someone else through excessive social media activity can negatively impact your relationship with your spouse to the point that you may be headed for divorce.

The reach of social media goes on after a divorce is filed

Social media's intrusion into marriage doesn't stop when a divorce is filed. Family law practitioners across the country - including countless judges, members of the Texas Academy of Family Law Specialists and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers - have seen a sharp rise in the amount of evidence admitted in contested divorce cases that was derived from social media sources.

Everything from status updates and tweets to pictures and "private" messages could possibly be discovered by your spouse and used against you. For example, an innocuous picture of you giving a toast at a company dinner could be discovered and admitted into evidence to support your spouse's petition for custody of the children. The argument could be made that you have an alcohol abuse issue and are an unfit parent even if you were drinking water and only spent a short time there. Even if the allegations turn out to be false, you may still be put in a position to clear your good name before the case can move forward.

For that reason, many industry experts recommend a social media "blackout" during a divorce. If nothing is posted to social networks, then there is no way to misinterpret it. Should that be too drastic a measure for you, then it is best to follow some basic rules:

  • Never "badmouth" your spouse, particularly if your children could be reading the post/tweet;
  • Never discuss the details of the court case, the judge, lawyers or any other person involved in the proceedings;
  • Avoid "checking in" to locations;
  • Instruct your friends not to "tag" you in pictures or upload pictures with you in them that could possibly be used against you;
  • Consider everything you post prior to posting it; even if you delete it mere minutes later, there might be a way to retrieve it;
  • If you wouldn't want the judge to read it in open court, don't post it online.

Of course, simply having social networking and media accounts doesn't mean your marriage will end. As with everything else in life, there must be balance. That being said, if you are considering divorce, taking decisive action to secure representation should be your first step, so speak with a family law attorney in your area today. Also, please note that any effort on your part to delete social media content is not recommended, as it could be interpreted as an attempt to "tamper with evidence" for which both you, and any attorney suggesting such conduct, would be sanctioned in the court case.

Keywords: divorce, social media, social networking, dissolution