Cincinnati Family Law and Divorce Blog: A Cautionary Tale: Social Media is Not the Forum for Crowdsourcing Your Divorce Negotiations

When I initially meet with my clients, I will caution them to not post anything on social media that they would not want the judge deciding their case to see. This includes badmouthing your spouse, engaging in questionable behavior, or disclosing sensitive information. But what about discussing the terms you are negotiating for property division or parenting agreements?


As a family law attorney and someone on social media, I will sometimes see my professional and personal worlds collide online. I have seen my colleague’s confidential legal advice to her client shared by that client in a semi-public online group as “My attorney told me that I should …” I have seen a long-forgotten acquaintance, who for some reason is my Facebook friend, post a request for feedback on very personal terms of their divorce settlement. I have even seen posts pop up on my feed from the opposing party of our firm’s client seeking advice on parenting negotiations, which I can be sure they would not have wanted to directly share with their spouse’s attorney.


In the era of social media being a prime method of “being social,” many people are online friends with mere acquaintances. You may have even friended a person on Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok who you would not recognize, approach, or know in real life. That “friend” will still see your personal posts, which may only be intended for a small audience of online friends with whom you have an actual relationship. It is easy to forget that your posts are not just seen by those online friends that consistently interact on your page. This could lead to inadvertent sharing of personal information with someone that you would never share with in-person.


Social media has also become a source of support for many people when they are going through difficult times. The quintessential “Facebook Moms Group” is oftentimes a treasure trove of advice, recommendations, and listening ears. However, these large online groups, while they may be “private” or “members only,” are still public forums that include a fair amount of strangers. Unless you know every single member personally, there is no way to know if your spouse’s friend-of-a-friend, acquaintance, or co-worker is lurking in the group and reading your posts to the group. It is even possible that your spouse’s attorney or an employee of that attorney’s firm could be in the online group and see your posts.


Many online groups have their own internal rules, including prohibitions on screenshotting posts and sharing information outside of the group. However, these admin rules are not enforceable in court. If a member shares information from the group, he or she may face banishment from that group. If the member violates the terms of service or community standards from the online platform, he or she could be removed from that platform. But there is no criminal action that could be brought if a member discloses a group post to a non-group member. Nor is there any civil action that the author of that post could assert. More importantly, in the context of parties going through a divorce, social media posts, as well as private messages or DMs, can be admitted as evidence at trial, so long as they are properly authenticated.


If you post on your own social media or within an online group about the status or your divorce negotiations, you may be exposing your negotiation tactics (indirectly) to your spouse. Polling the crowd about whether you should agree to this term or that term may seem innocent and insulated within that group. Sharing that your divorce attorney recommended that you do X, Y, Z may feel helpful to the other members of the page who have asked for advice. But when that post is screenshotted, sent to your spouse, and then to his or her counsel, you have possibly lost a bargaining chip. And if your post or comments contain sensitive information about your case, you risk that information being screenshotted, shared, and admitted as evidence against you in your divorce trial.


When you are actively negotiating the terms of a divorce settlement or involved in family law litigation, it is best to stick to the old-fashioned in-person support methods. Talk about it with your friend over lunch, call you wise aunt, or confer with college buddy who went through the same thing. But leave the crowdsourcing and venting off of your social media. If you must post online, stick to the tried-and-true method of sharing your feelings without sharing details – Vague-Booking.