You’re going through a tough divorce. You’re upset, angry and frustrated by your ex’s recent actions, so you grab your phone and fire off a quick tweet to your measly 87 followers to vent. No big deal, right?
What may seem like a teeny, tiny action could have huge consequences in your divorce -- both legally and financially. And it's understandable if you don't already know that; divorce may be your first experience with the legal system and the intricacies of what you can and cannot do are often buried in legal jargon.
We turned to the experts to find out what mistakes you don’t even know you’re making when it comes to divorcing in the 21st century. Here's what they had to say:
Social media is never private.
Believe it or not, Facebook posts, tweets, Instagram photos and the like can all be used against you in a divorce case. People think they can get around that reality by simply blocking their ex and all of his or her friends -- but that won't help.
“Posting anything on social media is like standing on your front lawn and shouting it,” attorney Aaron Abramowitz of Trope and Trope law firm in Los Angeles told The Huffington Post. In other words, everyone can hear you.
Abramowitz explained that blocking an ex isn't effective; he or she can still log in under a friend’s account, make a fake account or get their friends to take screenshots of your posts. And it’s unrealistic for someone to un-friend every person their ex knows, Abramowitz explained. “The Internet is written in pen not pencil.”
Deleting a post won't help and may make things worse.
Let's say you've posted photos of you on vacation spending money you say you don't have, or you've written negative, defamatory comments about your ex. Whatever you do, don't delete those posts.
Choi tells her clients to “bite their tongues” now because “once it’s out there, it’s out there.”
Social media can be used against you, even if you're not the one doing the posting.
Just because you personally don’t post something does not mean it can’t be held against you in a court of law. “It comes up in child custody cases a lot,” Abramowitz said.
For example, if parents are sharing custody and their 15-year-old kid posts a picture drinking alcohol at a party on his or her own Facebook page, that photo can be used against the parent who was technically “on the clock” as evidence of unfit parenting.
Even a video that is meant to be cute -- like a child bouncing on a trampoline -- can be viewed as showcasing a “dangerous” activity, Abramowitz said. So it’s important to be mindful of what others around you are doing and posting in connection with you.
Appearance is everything, and social media may tell the wrong story.
The problem with social media is that posts are taken out of context and, when strung together, may tell a story that paints you in a negative light.
A Twitter rant could be the result of a 30-second delay in judgement and filled with words you would never use in real life -- but if threats are made or swear words used or it’s filled with defamatory language, it could be problematic, even if said in jest.
“Your words are your words,” Abramowitz said. “[If you're] putting it in a place a kid can see it -- that’s when judges are really concerned. It’s really damaging to a kid to feel there is a wedge between their parents."
But it’s not just out-of-context or one-off remarks that are the problem.
“Say you’re trying to get spousal support and saying you don’t have money to live -- but you're going on lavish vacations,” Choi tells Huff Post. “Your ex could print it off and show the judge.”
Actions on social media put you in a position to explain yourself and your actions. “You need to look at the big picture,” Choi warned.
Social media isn’t the only problem.
Social media isn’t the only thing that's tripping people up these days. Although it seems fairly obvious, both experts said to never forget that everything is traceable: credit cards, emails, bank loans, job applications -- it’s all out there.
And hiding assets or moving money won’t help, Abramowitz said: “Even if we don’t know where the money is now, we know where it was.”
He also says people forget about forms they filled out while still married, like loan applications for cars and houses. In those instances, he said, income is often inflated and those forms -- even if a few years old -- can be used against you, or used as proof you're trying to hide funds.
While divorce is tricky to navigate, there are ways to make sure you get out as amicably as possible.
Abramowitz’s advice to avoid major pitfalls? “Just be civil.”
As for Choi, she says she's seen clients get divorced and stay good friends. She advised, “It’s always important to be mindful of what you’re saying. All the dirty laundry is laid out in the court room, so you don’t want to be put in that position.”