By Barry Nussbaum
Everyone today turns to the Internet for answers — and those going through a divorce are no exception. It’s important to recognize, though, that while technology and social media are powerful tools that can help in the divorce process, they can also interfere with it.
Couples today can easily find information online about obtaining a divorce, including accessing relevant court forms. As a result, savvy individuals may even complete and file their own divorce applications — a move which may be perceived to be time and money-saving but can actually achieve the opposite in the long run. While the Internet offers the allure of engaging in cost-saving self-help, self-represented individuals trying to traverse the complex legal system may find their court applications rejected, adding complications to an already stressful situation.
Because lawyers specializing in family law know the ins and outs of the divorce process, their experience and expertise cannot be replaced by information found online. Thankfully, technology also gives people the ability to find a competent lawyer to handle such matters.
Social media has had a particularly large impact on the divorce process. According to Canada’s federally legislated Divorce Act, to become divorced, the married couple must demonstrate that there has been a breakdown of the marriage. To evidence a breakdown of the marriage, there are three recognized grounds for divorce: separation, adultery and cruelty.
Couples that have separated only need to show that they have been separated for one year before obtaining a divorce. However, this one-year period may be disregarded if a spouse can successfully prove adultery or cruelty, which is where social media has proven to be a downside for some couples seeking divorce. Adultery is defined as voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not his or her spouse. A divorce may be granted on the grounds of cruelty, if one can satisfy the court that they have been treated with physical or mental cruelty of such a kind as to render cohabitation with their spouse intolerable.
Anything posted on social media is on display for the world to see, regardless of one’s privacy settings. Many individuals may not realize that social media posts can and are often used as evidence in legal proceedings. For couples who air their laundry online, it is not uncommon for social media posts to be used as evidence of adultery and cruelty in court. Photos and videos posted on Instagram or Facebook are frequently used in attempts to prove adultery. For example, a harmless picture of someone holding a friend’s hand can easily be misconstrued and that person may suddenly find himself defending against a claim of adultery. The same may apply to flirtatious conversations within public posts.
The pervasiveness of technology and social media impact our everyday lives, and their impact on divorce proceedings cannot be underestimated.
Barry Nussbaum is Senior Lawyer at Nussbaum Law, a Toronto-based law specializing in family law. To download a free legal guide to divorce, visit https://nussbaumlaw.ca.