When you’re going through a separation or divorce, it is understandably an emotionally tumultuous time. During your separation or divorce, you may feel angry; you may need to vent; you may feel the need to take out a billboard proclaiming your ex’s idiocy. Many people will choose to broadcast their personal frustrations online, without considering the ramifications to their divorce proceedings. You will need people in your corner to give you emotional support- that’s fair. It’s important to deal with these feelings appropriately by seeking out counseling or professional support services (in addition to your personal support network). Calling-out your ex-spouse on Facebook, firing off a threatening e-mail or tweeting about your situation could seriously harm your ongoing or future litigation. Here are 5 reasons why it’s a good idea to take the high road (on the information highway):
1. It could increase conflict. High-conflict separations can result in much higher legal costs and take much longer to resolve. Your ex-spouse may no longer be willing to resolve matters out of court, through negotiation or mediation once they’ve been embarrassed or attacked online.
2. It could, and probably will, be read by the Judge. Conduct yourself as if everything you put in writing will be read by a Judge. From the time you separate, your ex-spouse could be collecting evidence against you. Facebook messages and posts, e-mails, text messages and tweets are popping up in affidavits routinely. Don’t put anything in writing you wouldn’t want a Judge to later read.
3. You could hurt your children. Children have increasing access to social media these days. Posting negative remarks about their other parent could be extremely emotionally damaging and lead to or perpetuate cyber bullying. You want to portray yourself to your child as respecting of others’ feelings– not as a bully.
4. Your message or post could be considered family violence. The British Columbia Family Law Act broadly defines “family violence” as including psychological or emotional abuse stemming from intimidation, harassment, coercion or threats. If a Judge gets a hold of that Instagram photo of you backing over your ex’s prized possessions with your car, they could deem this as family violence and do any of the following:
-Grant your spouse a protection order. Breaching a protection order could result in criminal charges.
-Make a conduct orders that you attend counselling, for example. If you do not comply, conduct orders can be enforced. You can be fined up to $5,000 or put in jail for up to 30 days.
-Grant your spouse exclusive occupancy of the home. This means that you are no longer allowed to reside in your home and will have to move out.
-Put restrictions on your parenting time or contact with your children. This can include requiring your visits to be supervised, sometimes by a professional at your expense.
5. You could put yourself and your children in danger. If you’re getting out of an abusive relationship, be careful what you post on social media. Even if your ex-spouse doesn’t know your password or isn’t your “friend” on Facebook, it is increasingly easy to access someone’s personal information online. Your spouse could easily find out where you’re living, working, or the party you’re going to on Saturday if you post this information to your social media accounts.
Just remember – anger is temporary, but the internet is forever.