What NOT to do on social media during a separation 

Have you separated from your partner or spouse? Find out what you should do and not do regarding social media.

Anyone who has been through a breakup understands the ritual of venting to friends over a chilled bottle of rosé. But with social media offering an additional platform to voice your frustrations, many people find their posts coming back to bite. 

One person who understands this risk is Countess Spencer, who is currently divorcing her husband of 13 years, Earl Spencer. She took to Instagram to break the news and said, “I’m just processing at the moment”. Whilst I am sure that a dedicated PR team will help Countess Spencer through this difficult time, how can someone navigate using social media when separating?

Here’s a quick summary of what we’ll cover in this article:

  1. Do not post anything abusive about your ex
  2. Think about how someone could construe your posts, if in doubt get a professional to help you
  3. Better still, don’t post anything at all
  4. If you do, make sure your social media is private and secure
  5. Do not post any details about your court proceedings

Refrain from posting abuse

It can be difficult to not retaliate when a relationship comes to an end, especially when there has been perceived wrongdoing or infidelity. But as lawyers, we search for any evidence to support our client’s case and Facebook and Instagram posts are not exempt from this. It is so important to not write anything on social media that you wouldn’t mind being read out in court. 

There are countless ways on how this could backfire; the opposition could bring a conduct case in financial proceedings and claim your post caused defamatory loss to their income or suggest to a judge in children proceedings, that you are not able to set your feelings aside to promote your child’s relationship with the other parent. Judges also have the power to make a costs order against anyone who has “poor litigation conduct”, which includes bad behaviour outside the courtroom. 

Not only could this damage your case, but also damage the relationship with your ex. Malicious comments raise the temperature which only causes greater issues, especially when there are children involved.

In only the rarest and most severe cases will a court order a parent to have no contact with their child, so you will likely have to be in contact with this person until your child reaches 18 years old and beyond. A healthy and civil co-parenting relationship is the best-case scenario for your child and for yourself.  

If you do need to post anything about the breakup, like Countess Spencer, make sure that it is brief and amicable. As Michelle Obama says, “when they go low, we go high”. 

Consider how your post could be interpreted 

Everyone has the right to post whatever they wish, but consider how a post or tweet may be interpreted, even if it may seem innocent. There is always a chance that it can do more harm than good.  

Your Instagram story showing your latest retail therapy may be used in evidence that your financial need isn’t as great as your solicitor has stated it is in correspondence. Likewise, if you are feeling frustrated by your child’s latest tantrum in Waitrose, vent over the phone to a friend instead of posting this to your local mum’s Facebook group, as you do not know who else is in there. 

The best advice is stop posting all together and ask friends and family to do the same. Your post cannot be interpreted incorrectly if it does not exist!

Be secure

If you can’t go without, then make sure that your social media is as secure as possible. Change your profile to private so only the people you choose can view your posts. Review your friends and followers and consider removing anyone who may not have your best interests at heart.

If you have used the same password for the last 10 years, which you believe your ex is aware of, it may be a good idea to update this, too. 

Do not share court proceedings online  

Unlike other countries, most Family Law cases in England and Wales were historically held privately, and for many years journalists were unable to attend family court hearings (with exceptions), and there were heavy restrictions around reporting.

Positively, it is unlikely that your proceedings will be shared like the infamous Depp v Heard case. However, with the call for transparency, journalists have greater freedom to report on hearings, so parties also need to weigh the risk of publicity in their cases. Luckily, the starting point is still anonymity and confidentiality with reporting, without the express permission of the court.

However, telling friends details about your family court proceedings is Contempt of Court and if found guilty, can be punishable by six months of prison or an unlimited fine. Of course, you can depend on family and friends emotionally through this process, but details must remain anonymised and should definitely not be posted on social media, otherwise consequences may be severe. 

Whilst Judges understand that we are all human and sometimes our emotions cause us to make misguided decisions, following the above guidance should make this already difficult process a little easier.

Rosa​​​​ Alexander, Solicitor in the Family Law team at Wilsons Solicitors LLP.