The fact that you are reading this blog probably means you are familiar with social media. It is possible you came straight to the Woolley & Co website, saw mention of a blog and decided to drop in, but it is more likely you were signposted here. That may have been from our Facebook status update. It may have been via Twitter. We find the blog a useful medium for talking about family law issues. It is a relaxed format and we can chat away to our heart’s content, hoping to impart some wisdom or provoke thought. Chatty, not dictatorial. Friendly, not officious.
So we use blogs and social media freely to communicate our thoughts, as do millions of people across the world. It is nothing short of a life/information-sharing phenomenon – but it does have its downside and it is therefore understandable why it has an impact on divorcing couples.
How? Well, for a start, it is perhaps easier to access information on how to divorce. There are plenty of website out there with high quality information and advice. But there are also lots of informal advice forums too, where people share their own experience of divorce or answer other forum members questions and this certainly is problematic. All too often we see so called divorce advice on website a forum which at best ill informed and slightly misleading and at worst could be stoking the fires of an already dangerous situation between two parties. So whilst information is great, it does need to be used with some caution.
Any family lawyers reading this blog won’t be surprised to learn that Facebook is now mentioned in an increasing number of divorces, rarely in a good way.
It may be that one party is accused of having an affair with an old flame and they got in touch again thanks to Facebook or some other form of social media. Experience in our own firm suggests this is mentioned more than it was 10 years ago, but instances of it are not now on the rise.
What we are seeing an increase in is the number of people who are using their Twitter account to make provocative remarks about their estranged husband or wife. Now, washing dirty linen in public is never a good idea but when you are going through a divorce, it is only going to cost you additional time and money – so please don’t do this!
In days gone by, you may have got together with friends for a pint or a glass of wine and had a good whinge about your soon-to-be ex to get it off your chest. What you said didn’t really go any further than that circle. But if you post those views on Twitter or via a Facebook status update, they are out there for all to see – forever.
There are legal issues surrounding this which go way beyond family law considerations. Obviously, being disparaging about someone else, flagging inappropriate behaviour, making comments about new partners or even bemoaning their sexual prowess will do nothing to aid the divorce process and let you get on with the rest of your life. That is one issue.
However, you could unwittingly be libelling them if, for instance, what you say may cause others to doubt their professional conduct or you accuse them of something which damages their reputation, especially if it is not true. And a defence that your comments were made on a personal Twitter account, or on a Facebook message to friends only, will not hold water. You can do nothing quietly or privately where social media is concerned. Comment is too easy to share.
So, while the age of social media does bring advantages in terms of finding out about divorce, locating an experienced family solicitor or choosing the best route for you, whether that be mediation, collaborative divorce or whatever, there are risks involved. Our advice would be if you have to let off steam, do it the old fashioned way – in private and to a close friend, not online.