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From “I Do” to “Unfollow”: How Mobile Phones and Social Media May Affect Your Divorce

The widespread availability of mobile phones has undeniably changed the way in which we communicate.

With mobile phones at our fingertips, communication has become instant and increasingly reactive. Likewise, social media platforms now enable us to easily share a substantial portion of our day with a wide audience.

Naturally, there is concern that our use of technology results in a permanent, and often public, record of our lives.

Parties are increasingly producing evidence obtained from mobile phones to use against their spouses in court proceedings. Social media platforms are being scoured for relevant posts to either prove or disprove a position. Meanwhile, instant messaging apps are being used to lure parties into an agreement or statement, which they can later be held to.

The usage of mobile phones and social media can also be a source of hostility for the parties involved.

This has placed more of a spotlight on the use of mobile phones in divorce proceedings. Our Family team examines these issues in more detail below:

It is all about the evidence

Evidence gathered from mobile phones and social media is often used during the financial remedy proceedings on divorce. Whilst there is no requirement for spouses to settle their finances upon divorce, it is recommended that parties do so. This is to avoid any future claims which may arise from postponing a financial settlement.

In financial remedy applications, parties are required to provide a full and frank disclosure of their financial resources so the court can determine the appropriate financial provision. However, any division of wealth will be based on the assets which have been disclosed and much is dependent upon the parties to be truthful about the extent of their finances. Consequently, parties are frequently using social media to prove, or disprove, their spouse’s financial position, particularly where there are allegations of non-disclosed assets and lavish spending.

When making a decision, the court, along with other factors, will also look at the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage. Therefore, social media posts evidencing expensive clothing, restaurants and holidays are likely to be significant in any analysis.

These considerations maintain relevance where there are children of the marriage. When determining the appropriate child arrangements order, the court will similarly consider prior standard of living, financial needs and the income, financial and property assets of both parents. The same evidence may be relevant.

Furthermore, in cases where there are high income levels, the court has jurisdiction to order periodical payments which “top up” any child support payments already being received via the Child Maintenance Service or the Child Support Agency. To qualify for this order, the paying partner must earn more than £3,000 per week for the Child Support Agency, or a net income of £104,000 per annum in cases concerning the Child Maintenance Service. It is therefore important to demonstrate that spending exceeds this criteria and, where there has not been a full and frank disclosure, social media and other communications disproving the disclosure may help.

 Mobile Phones and Well-being

Divorce is a significant event in anyone’s life. Well-being and mental health throughout the process is paramount. Unfortunately, the prevalence of mobile phones can cause parties great difficulties, particularly if you have been the victim of abuse.

It is no wonder, therefore, that social media can cause difficulties post-marriage in the same way that it can be a catalyst for arguments during. Viewing daily updates of your spouse’s life on social media may create unhappy emotions of resentment, anger or jealousy, whilst the ease of digital messaging services can spark unkind communications. It can also encourage people from outside the marriage to offer unwelcome opinions, affecting your self-esteem and hindering a fresh start. It can be understandably hard to escape this.

 Using Mobile Phones Responsibly

Mobile phones can be both a hinderance and a help in divorce proceedings. It is therefore important to use your phone, and social media contained within it, responsibly and cautiously throughout the separation process.

Useful tips:

  • Limiting Usage – This can help you heal from the separation, allowing for time apart and a cleaner break. It may also be suitable to take a short break from posting frequently on social media sites, if you previously did so. This can protect you from general hostility and disagreements.
  • Avoid Negative Posts or Conversations – Remember, there is permanence to digital communications. It may harm your case or hurt your spouse.
  • Privacy Settings – Ensure your accounts are well protected if your spouse had access to them previously.
  • Seek Legal Advice – We can offer you advice on navigating social media and communication on your device, helping you focus on your future post-separation.

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, or need advice about a divorce or civil partnership separation, please do not hesitate to contact our Family & Private Wealth Department on 020 7625 6003 or Priya Dhokia (Head of Family & Private Wealth) by email at p.dhokia@fgdlaw.co.uk.