Post Authored By: Shannon Luschen
In today’s world, you’d be hard pressed to find someone that doesn’t have at least one social media account. In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s easy to understand why. Social media offers its users the unique ability to connect with family and friends all over the world at the touch of a button. When we were forced to isolate for most of this year, social media opened its doors and allowed us to keep in touch with loved ones and friends.
Despite its attributes, social media can play a dangerous role during divorce and may negatively impact your case. For example, if you’re arguing that you can’t afford to pay your spouse maintenance (formerly known as alimony), then you’d be wise not to post pictures of your latest tropical vacation or brand new car. If you’re arguing that you should be allocated the majority of parenting time over your child (formerly known as custody), then you shouldn’t be posting pictures where you’re out late at a bar or club on a school night. Perception matters. Assume everything can and will be used against you during your divorce.
In Walther, the Court considered evidence from an ex-wife’s social media account when determining whether or not to terminate the ex-husband’s maintenance obligation. In re Marriage of Walther, 2018 IL App (3d) 170289. In this case, the husband had filed a petition to terminate maintenance based on the allegation that the ex-wife was engaged in a de facto marriage, meaning that she was cohabiting with a boyfriend on a continuing, conjugal and resident basis. To support this claim, the ex-husband presented evidence from the ex-wife’s Facebook that showed a picture of her and her boyfriend with his arm around her. The picture further included the parties’ daughter as well as the boyfriend’s daughter. In response to a comment, the ex-wife stated that it was “’an awesome family. We are so happy.’” In response to another comment, the ex-wife said that they “’couldn’t be happier. Lots of laughs around here, not to mention [her daughter] got a sister she always wanted.’” The Court stated that this evidence, in connection with other evidence, (i.e. taking trips together, commingling finances) helped “give the appearance of a de facto husband and wife relationship.” Thus, the ex-husband’s maintenance obligation was terminated.
While a social media post may seem innocent enough at the time, it may sabotage your case later. The best practice is to deactivate your accounts or, at the very least, convert all of your accounts to private. If you choose to remain active on social media, consider the following tips:
- Do not discuss your pending divorce on social media
- Do not bad mouth your spouse on social media
- Avoid posting pictures of yourself with a new boyfriend or girlfriend
- Be mindful of the pictures that you are tagged in
If you have to ask yourself whether or not you should post something, err on the side of caution and don’t post it.
About The Author:
Shannon Luschen is an associate with Feinberg Sharma in Chicago, which focuses exclusively on family law matters. Shannon received her undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison undergrad and her J.D. at Chicago-Kent College of Law, where she graduated cum laude.