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Facebook is Everywhere: Even in Your Divorce

Facebook is Everywhere: Even in Your Divorce

When a private investigator failed repeatedly to deliver a divorce summons to her husband, nurse Ellanora Baidoo asked the judge if she could get the job done via Facebook. Avoiding being served papers has been a common way to delay or stop a legal action and one that Baidoo’s husband, Victor Sena Blood-Dzraku, appeared to be employing.

When a process server is unable to contact a defendant, laws state that notice must be left at a last-known address or published in the newspaper. These two methods do not guarantee the defendant will know about the legal action, and he or she could use that in court to proclaim innocence.

The Manhattan judge who ruled in the wife’s favor explained, “The past decade has also seen the advent and ascendancy of social media . . . the next frontier in developing law of the service of process over the Internet is the use of social media sites as forums through which a summons can be delivered.” In England, serving court documents via Facebook has been accepted since 2012.

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Social Media and Infidelity

Facebook: The Virtual Pick-Up Lounge that’s Always Open

Convenient process serving isn’t the only way Facebook has been impacting modern divorce. According to Pew Study Research Center study, the Internet and American Life, one in five adults uses Facebook to flirt.  Fast-forward from that first innocent-seeming innuendo to a co-worker and it’s no surprise one-third of divorce petitions in the UK mentioned Facebook.

A 2015 study of 2,000 British citizens found one in seven respondents considered divorce because of their partner’s inappropriate activity on Facebook and other social media channels. The study also found that 25% had at least one argument a week related to social media use and 17% fought about it every day. In a chilling finding, 58% of respondents reported that they knew their partner’s passwords, either with or without the partner’s knowledge. Clearly, for a significant proportion of couples, Facebook detracts from rather than adds to their primary relationship.

Not surprising, American couples behave similarly to those across the pond. A survey conducted by American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reported 81% of attorneys had seen an increase in mentions of Facebook and other social media networks in divorce petitions. The issues can be endless.

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Specific Facebook-related reasons for divorce mentioned in petitions include:

  • inappropriate messages
  • separated spouses posting nasty comments about each other
  • Facebook friends reporting spouses’ bad behavior

Couples worldwide haven’t yet grasped the impact of Facebook on their marriage. National Sleep Foundation studies reveal that 95% of Americans use electronic devices within one hour of bedtime. We’re combining activity on iPhones and iPads with slightly more passive television viewing as we multi-task. While the habit may have started innocently, Facebook updates and friend requests quickly lure us away from checking on family across the country or searching for a great restaurant for couples’ night for the upcoming weekend.

When Facebook Documents Too Much Evidence

Facebooking Illegal and Inappropriate Activity

Judges are allowing documents to be served via Facebook, and they use updates, profiles, friend connections and more from the channel as well. Petitioners and defendants trying to support their claims often find themselves undone by Facebook evidence.

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Some examples of real evidence attorneys have presented or face include:

  • a selfie photo of a marijuana-denying mother smoking a joint
  • a match.com profile of a custody-seeking man claiming he has no children
  • statements in updates and profiles that indicate personality disorders and anger issues

Once it’s on the Internet, it’s there forever.

Facebook Dos and Don’ts during Divorce

Don’t post while tired, emotionally overwrought or drinking

While Facebook can feel like a forum of friends to whom you turn for sympathy and support, it can have more negative impacts. Extreme emotion, fatigue and alcohol render reality in all kinds of exaggerated shapes and colors. Do yourself a favor and find another way to vent when in these conditions.

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Instead of venting your frustrations on your social media, use your social network to relieve stress. Get together in person with friends rather than connect with people via social media. Consider divorce support groups where people experiencing the same issues and feelings can lean on each other.

Consider, too, that messages posted to your wall may evoke sympathy and support from SOME friends, but don’t forget that you’re sending these to acquaintances and friends of friends as well. The majority may stay silent, but they will judge nonetheless. They may not see the situation as you do.

Turn off location-indicators

If you “check-in” at bars, concerts or other venues that will render a reaction in an ex and his or her friends, life becomes fraught with even more conflict. A screenshot of this “check-in” could appear in court, putting you in a poorer negotiating position for alimony, child support and custody.

Consider Unfriending Some

If you’ve had a Facebook account for over three years, you probably still have connections there you don’t even remember friending. Some of these people may take your ex-spouse’s side in the divorce. Even if they strive to stay neutral, it may be the time to review and strategically cut a few. You can send a polite message apologizing and remarking that you feel uncomfortable with the Facebook connection at this time.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Leuthard via flickr.com

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Peter Mueller

Founder of Father's Rights Law Center

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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