Unsurprisingly, the number one reason given for Facebook being cited in divorce and separation is ‘inappropriate messages to the opposite sex’. All too often, so-called ‘Facebook friends’ share information about a friend’s spouse or partner getting too friendly with someone else. Many people don’t really understand who can see their Facebook posts or likes and don’t set their privacy settings accordingly. This can mean that what was supposed to be a private post by spouse A, for example, ends up being seen by many others and can get back to spouse B – even though A & B might not be Facebook friends.
So, what can you do to protect yourself from the perils of Facebook? Family solicitor, Nicola Cancellara suggest:
- If you are still in a relationship, discuss the dangers of social media with your partner. Try to agree appropriate limits, e.g. what’s acceptable and what’s not.
- Make sure you spend more time interacting with your partner and not monitoring what Facebook friends are doing.
- If it’s too late and separation has taken place, it is probably best to unfriend your ex.
- Use common sense and think very carefully before posting anything on social media. Divorce/family solicitors can use social media post as evidence, for example, where a party in court proceedings claims that they are not engaged to be married and yet their social media status says that they are, or where they claim that they are not cohabiting, but there are social media posts or photos proving the opposite. Remember also that some posts can come across as showing disregard for responsibility – particularly in relation to children. Posts relating to excessive alcohol use, drugs or fighting won’t be viewed favourably if you are seeking contact with your children. Think about your audience before posting. Who are your friends? Who are their friends? Who will see your posts?
- Check your privacy settings regularly – Facebook changes them often, so it is best to keep up to date.
- If there are existing social media posts that you would prefer not to be raised in court proceedings, remove them, or ask the friend who posted to remove them. Don’t forget you cannot force someone to remove a post from their own feed and you can’t remove it from their feed yourself if you didn’t make the post yourself – you can only remove it from your own feed.
- If you are tagged in inappropriate posts or photos, un-tag yourself.
- Never post anything about court proceedings. These are private and should remain so.
It’s difficult of course, but if you’re in a relationship it might be best to forget Facebook and other social media platforms – especially if the relationship is rocky – or, at the very least, limit your use.
If you need assistance on this or any other family matter, please contact us now. We will arrange a meeting with our family law experts to discuss your individual matter and advise what your next step should be.
Author: family solicitor, Nicola Cancellara