Social media and divorce


Social media and divorce don’t mix – keep your marriage breakdown private!

Do you and your spouse share everything, even logins and passwords to cell phones and personal online accounts? There can be benefits to this strategy. If one of you is ill or injured, the other can deal with important matters and ensure nothing critical is overlooked. This can be particularly important if one of you is self-employed. But when a relationship starts to break down, it’s time to rethink such open access to private accounts. If you are going through a divorce, you need to be very careful about electronic communications in general and social media in particular. Your privacy is essential. If your circumstances – professional or otherwise – require someone to have access to your files and logins as backup, share your details with a trusted family member or colleague. But the best course of action is to guard your privacy closely, and be extremely careful what you say online. 

Private communications should be private

You are likely to need to discuss matters via email with an attorney, a social worker, a psychologist, or even an accountant. These professionals need to contact you securely and in confidence. If you haven’t done so already, change the password to your email account. For greater security, set up a new email address altogether. Gmail is not the only option. Many alternative email providers are more secure and less inclined to mine your data. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to set up a dedicated email account for your divorce correspondence, and keep the address for this purpose only. Then you won’t miss an important email in a crowded inbox. All your important information will be in one place, easily searchable and classifiable.

Whatever email address you use, be careful what you say in personal emails. Don’t complain about your spouse when writing to family members or friends. They will (hopefully) respect your confidence, but technology might betray you. Emails wind up in the wrong hands all the time, and you don’t want a moment of frustration or rage being used as evidence against you. Remember that electronic information never really disappears, even if you have deleted it.

Social media

Love and marriage may go together, but divorce and social media don’t. Even if you have unfriended or blocked your spouse on Facebook or Instagram, you probably have friends in common. If a mutual friend makes a comment on something you post, your spouse may see it. Furthermore, your friends may tag you or post photos of you having a good time that could be taken out of context and used against you by your spouse’s attorney. How can you prove that you weren’t drunk and incapable of looking after your child in that photo with a glass of wine in your hand? It’s safer, if a bit restrictive, to avoid these situations. That doesn’t mean you can’t socialise at all until the divorce is finalised, but beware of rowdy situations and stay out of group photos.

Be careful what you post about yourself. Now is not the time to show off your new designer handbag, weekend away at a luxury spa resort, or new set of golf clubs. You may have worked hard to earn them, but when you are negotiating your divorce settlement, it’s best to keep any symbols of wealth out of the spotlight, particularly if maintenance negotiations are tricky. 

Social media and your children

Keep your children off your social media pages. In our view, this is sound advice at any time. There are too many unsavoury characters stalking the internet. But when custody and access arrangements are at stake, you don’t want to risk doing anything that could appear irresponsible or provocative. Photos of  a day out with your children could be misinterpreted or twisted by your spouse’s attorney as an unsafe or inappropriate activity. It’s also not a good idea to give any indication of your child’s movements on social media, just in case there is any risk of abduction

Facebook is not for fighting

Don’t use social media as a platform to quarrel with your spouse. And don’t make derogatory comments about your spouse. If your children are old enough to be on social media themselves, imagine how they would feel seeing their parent maligned in public. You are divorcing their parent. They are not. 

In short, don’t write anything on social media you wouldn’t want your child to read, now or in the future.

Furthermore, don’t allow your family members and friends to make remarks about your spouse or your divorce. Politely tell your family and close friends that you are going through a divorce and can’t risk any publicity of your private affairs. You can change your Facebook timeline settings so that you have to review anything someone posts on your timeline before it is displayed, but it’s simpler to come off social media altogether. You don’t have to delete your account, and you can still browse to see what others are up to, but refrain from posting your own updates until the divorce is behind you.

A word about dating sites and apps

When we hear the term “social media”, we tend to think of Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. But the term also applies to dating sites and apps like Tinder and Bumble. The desire to date again is understandable, but if your divorce is not finalised, you could be taking a risk. The safest approach is not to date at all until you are divorced, but this is not realistic. Humans like connection. But it’s important to be discreet. Unless you disguise your identity extremely well, which means using a pseudonym and not including a photo – and then what’s the point? – you may be easily recognised by a friend of your spouse or someone else who knows you. This could be used against you in court. It might be better to find alternative means of meeting people until you are single again.

If you do use a dating app, be truthful about your circumstances. We’ve heard of one man who set his Tinder profile to say he was single and had no children. He was in the process of divorce (therefore still technically married) and had two children. His wife’s attorney made full use of that information in court. Needless to say, his maintenance and access arrangements were significantly affected.

The final word

Ultimately it comes down to common sense. While you may use social media as a means of keeping in touch with friends and enjoying light-hearted social engagement, it can be put to much more sinister use. Emails and WhatsApp messages are just as dangerous. Remember this: don’t write anything in any type of electronic communication that you wouldn’t want to hear read out in a court of law. However innocent or trivial a remark may seem at the time, it could be used in evidence against you. Treat social media as your enemy.

Let Cape Town Family Lawyers help

SD Law and Associates are experts in family law in Cape Town and Johannesburg. We have extensive experience of helping couples divorce with dignity and we strive to ensure the best possible outcome for all parties, especially the children. Contact family lawyer Simon Dippenaar on 086 099 5146 or email

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The information on this website is provided to assist the reader with a general understanding of the law. While we believe the information to be factually accurate, and have taken care in our preparation of these pages, these articles cannot and do not take individual circumstances into account and are not a substitute for personal legal advice. If you have a legal matter that concerns you, please consult a qualified attorney. Simon Dippenaar & Associates takes no responsibility for any action you may take as a result of reading the information contained herein (or the consequences thereof), in the absence of professional legal advice.

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