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You really don’t need much imagination to understand how social media can damage a marital relationship. First of all, social media is addictive, resulting in people spending hours scrolling with their faces buried in their phones. That can detract from their bond with their partner.

Secondly, social media portrays an idealized version of relationships. Few people share the negatives, preferring to brag about the positive things in their life. That can make people feel like their relationship just doesn’t compare. Finally, the ability to reach out in an instant to every person you’ve ever dated can make it a lot easier to engage in infidelity of some sort.

However, the dangers of social media don’t end when you file for divorce. Instead, you will still have to navigate a quagmire of potential pitfalls that create legal liability for you. Thinking smart about social media in your divorce can protect your reputation and your assets.

Remember that nothing you share online is really private

So you’ve taken steps already to protect your privacy on social media. You may have set your profile or content to be only visible by people you approve as friends. You may further limit the audience for individual posts in order to protect yourself. However, mistakes can and do happen. You could post something publicly that was meant to be private. More importantly, someone could hack into your account.

It’s also true that people you trust may not deserve that trust. Someone could screenshot what you share on social media, whether it is a post or a private message. That information could then come back to haunt you by making you look dangerous or violent in court.

Even if you avoided talking about your divorce or your ex, talking about your life as a single person is also dangerous until the courts finalize your divorce. If you start dating, even if your ex has already dated or cheated during your marriage, you should keep it private until the end of the divorce.

Otherwise, sharing pictures of you with your new partner could trigger infidelity clauses in your prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. They could also influence how the courts view you, which could skew either the asset division or child custody proceedings, even though marital misconduct should not factor into those decisions.

Social media is not the place to find support for emotional issues in divorce

Once you share something on social media, it is possible for other people to take screenshots of it and share it. Even if you eventually delete what you share or you only share private information in closed groups or in direct messages with people you trust, there is always the potential for what you write to wind up in front of the eyes of your ex or the judge in your divorce case.

Err on the side of caution. While you do need social and emotional support at the end of your marriage, getting it from strangers online may not be your best option. A counselor or therapist will have to keep what you say to them confidential unless they think you will hurt yourself or someone else. Close friends are also good choices when you need someone to talk to. Talking in person helps ensure that they don’t misunderstand what you’re saying or otherwise make a permanent record of your discussion.

If you worry about how social media and other factors could influence your divorce, the best way to get peace of mind is to sit down with an experienced Illinois family law attorney. The right lawyer can give you good advice about social media and help you navigate the legal and social complexities of ending your marriage.