How Can Social Media Affect My Illinois Divorce?
Glen Ellyn Family Law Attorneys
We live in an age where we constantly feel the need to let everyone in the world around us know exactly where we are at all times. This is made possible by social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and other similar networking and social sharing pages. While sharing our lives with our friends and colleagues may seem perfectly benign, over-sharing is a great way to ensure conflict. We are all aware that what we post on social media may have an adverse effect on our job prospects, but few of us have likely considered the impact our posts can have on a pending divorce case.
Grounds for Illinois Divorce
Illinois, like most jurisdictions, does not require fault on behalf of one of the parties to file for divorce. This is called “no fault divorce.” There are certain grounds that will give rise to a “fault-based” divorce that can make divorce proceedings go more quickly, but fault is not required in Illinois.
That being said, once you decide to initiate divorce proceedings, whether on non-fault or fault based grounds, you become susceptible to the some similar concerns. How much alimony will I receive/have to pay? Do I have to share my pension? Who will get our stocks and bonds? The answer to these questions depends on what assets were obtained during marriage and what, if any, existed before. Virtually anything of value acquired during the course of a marriage is considered marital property, even if it is only in one spouse’s name, and both parties will have a claim to it in the divorce.
When you file for divorce, you must provide all of your assets. In an effort to maintain more than their fair share, some people will try to hide assets from their spouse, claiming they do not exist or that they exist in much smaller amounts than in reality. The consequences of this on the divorce settlement can be significant. Social media has provided an outlet for people to become aware of their ex-spouse’s hidden assets, hidden lives, and to uncover potential things that can impact the ultimate divorce settlement.
Social Media Accounts and Your Illinois Divorce
Your spouse claims he has no stock options from his work. Two weeks into your divorce proceedings, he tells all of his Facebook friends he’s having a midlife crisis as a newly single man, cashed out his stocks, and bought a Corvette. Who would do this, you ask? More people than you might think: members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers estimate that 81 percent of them have used or encountered social media sites as evidence during divorce proceedings. In a financial sense, this may include posting about new purchases, new investments, extravagant trips, or simple statements pertaining to financial status. The ex-spouse can learn of this information in any number of ways, from seeing it him or herself first hand, or having a friend or friend-of-a-friend inform them of the new lifestyle. If these assets were acquired during the marriage, the ex-spouse has an entitlement to them and they must become part of the divorce settlement agreement.
Social media can also harm a person trying to deny a fault-based divorce claim. The primary basis for fault-based claims is adultery. If a person’s spouse denies having extramarital relations, but then posts photos of the weekend getaway he and his mistress had together, chances are you can find more evidence that this relationship is occurring. These types of posts can make fault-based cases easier to prove, and more damaging on the person at fault financially. This can also be true if children are involved; if someone is trying to keep custody of their children, but continually posts pictures of him going out and drinking and doing drugs, this can be used against him as evidence of unfitness for custody in certain circumstances.
The bottom line is this: there is no such thing as privacy. The best thing you can do is to be honest about your assets and allow the divorce to settle amicably. If you are afraid you cannot do this, deleting your accounts is one way some people might go about “resolving” the issue. But in reality, once something is on the internet, it is out there. A friend might have remembered your post about your new car and mentioned it in passing to your ex-spouse; your ex-wife might have forgotten to delete some mutual friends and began posting things about her new boyfriend. Posting anything about your financial, emotional, or relationship status on social media during divorce proceedings may unnecessarily complicate your impending divorce, cost you money, and make an already difficult part of your life all the more complicated.