Family

Discussing your split is a social media taboo when divorcing

By Paul Russell, AdvocateDaily.com Contributor

People going through a divorce should stay off social media or at least avoid discussing their failed marriage and ex-partner online, says Toronto family lawyer Leanne Townsend.

“Posting things about your marriage breakup, especially if it is not going the way you desire, will only aggravate proceedings,” says Townsend, a partner with Brauti Thorning LLP.

“You’re in the middle of an intensely emotional time, so now is not the time to aggravate the situation by talking about the case,” she says. “People will sometimes say something very inflammatory, which could affect their potential for settling on some issues, and it could also be used against them in court.”

While an author can delete an online message once they realize it went too far, someone else may have taken a screenshot of the offending note before it was removed, Townsend tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“Once a message is on the web, it may always be out there somewhere,” she says. “People have to be mindful of that, and think twice about what they post — or just not post anything at all during a divorce case.”

To illustrate her point, Townsend points to a 2018 Ontario Superior Court case where Justice Ronald M. Laliberté admonished a man for saying derogatory things about his ex on social media.

According to court documents, the divorcing couple could not agree on access to the children, and the man posted derogatory comments about his wife in this regard and also used those negative comments as part of a pitch to crowdfund online.

During the trial, the father told the judge he needed access to Facebook so that his extended family would know about the children’s activities, the judgment reads.

The judge ruled that he could continue to post the children’s photos on Facebook, though “he shall not post any comments regarding legal disputes, access issues to the children and/or derogatory comments made against the [mother].”

“Even when the process is done, you have to be mindful that your ex is still the parent of your children,” Townsend says. “If you are saying bad things about him or her, it could be harmful to your children, and it may be read by parents of the children’s friends or other family members.”

She notes that some people feel they have a right to talk about their experience online as a form of cathartic therapy.

“It’s interesting because we live in these times where everyone wants to share their story as part of their personal healing, plus they hope to help others in similar situations,” Townsend says.

“But what if the post hurts your children or your case? You have to put that ahead of your own personal healing in the short term.”

In all circumstances, she says parents should keep the children at the forefront of their minds.

“The children’s interest should come first, so people need to remember that posting bad things about their ex will only cause hurt and resentment in other family members,” Townsend says.

Most couples are wise enough to avoid discussing their divorce on social media, but it still occurs on a regular basis, she adds.

“There are some extreme cases where people have posted all kinds of horrible information about their partner to the web,” Townsend says. “I don’t know how people think that they’ll get away with it, or that the other spouse won’t hear about it.”

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