Social media has become almost ubiquitous; for many people in Manchester, sharing through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or similar platforms is part of everyday life. Unfortunately, during a divorce, this ingrained use of social media can have unintended consequences. People separating in New Hampshire should understand the risks that come with using social media at any point during a divorce.
Much of the information that people willingly share online can prove harmful during a divorce. For example, social media information may be used in the following ways:
- Posts about recent vacations, purchases or job developments can suggest that one spouse is hiding assets or exaggerating need, according to Forbes. This could affect property division, alimony awards and child support orders.
- Posts that shed light on a person's questionable pastimes or lifestyle choices may call the person's fitness as a parent into question, according to the Huffington Post. This may affect child custody and visitation determinations.
- Posts that provide evidence of adultery can also have a significant impact in New Hampshire. Under state law, fault is considered when alimony is awarded. The dissipation of marital assets is also taken into account when property is divided. Spending money on an extra-marital affair may be viewed as dissipating assets.
Even when spouses don't directly incriminate themselves, the things that others share could have negative impacts. For instance, if a spouse's friend posts a photo of the spouse during a night of partying, or if the spouse's own child posts a comment that reflects poorly on the spouse's parenting style, the settlement could reflect that information.
Alarmingly, the use of this evidence is not uncommon. Back in 2010, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reported that more than four-fifths of its members had used evidence from social media during a divorce case, according to USA Today. With social media use even more prevalent today, it is likely that this evidence has become even more common. This makes it important for divorcing spouses to appreciate the risk - and consequences - of social media mistakes.
Experts often recommend a few precautions to guard against social media mistakes. People preparing for divorces should check and adjust their privacy settings early on, according to Forbes. These people should also remember that, even with the strictest privacy settings, sharing freely - whether through public posts or private messages - can be risky.
Screen shots and other measures can preserve posts even after they have been deleted. It is also not unheard of for an online "friend" to save or share potentially damaging admissions. Therefore, as a general rule, social media users should not share anything that they would not want brought up during the divorce.
Even if a person is conscientious about limiting his or her sharing, posts may be taken out of context, or an online friend may show a lapse in judgment when posting information. In light of these risks, it is usually best for people divorcing to simply deactivate their social media accounts for the duration of the proceedings, according to the Huffington Post.
Social media evidence is just one of many complications that people divorcing today may face. Anyone considering a divorce in New Hampshire should meet with a family law attorney to discuss other factors that may affect the divorce and eventual settlement.