I've Got Issues...And Peace


Boulder, Colorado,
October 22
Family, marital, and individual psychotherapist. Mother to four who no longer need my services but still enjoy my love as I do theirs. I specialize in stepfamily dynamics and difficult transitions. I try to write from the heart with a sense of vulnerability, humor and a frank look at myself. Art shown: "Four Pots" by Lindsey Leavell


Editor’s Pick
JULY 14, 2010 12:40PM

Facebook as Divorce Prosecutor

Rate: 40 Flag

66% of divorce attorneys gather evidence from the Facebook pages of the soon-to-be ex-spouses of their clients.  81% draw from Facebook, My Space, Twitter, You Tube and LinkedIn.

I work with many who are going through the stressful and painful process of divorce.  If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again, “Never put anything on the internet that could be used against you.  Never write an email, a text, leave a phone message in any way that could be used against you.”  I’m also careful to include the social network sites that so many adults participate in.

Despite my strong encouragement, my words typically fall on deaf ears.  Despite the abundance of information about how NOT private Facebook is, many adults post status updates, relationship statuses and general information that can be seen by virtually anyone on the planet who has access to a computer and the Internet.

Two cases in point:

--Soon to be divorced father goes on boasting of his single, CHILDLESS status while seeking primary custody of his supposedly nonexistent children.

--Soon to be divorced mother swears in court that she does not smoke marijuana, but posts on Facebook pictures of her partying and pot-smoking.

How old are these people?  And more importantly, how naïve?

For myself, I’m not really interested in the legal aspects of Facbook because I’d like to think I would never be that stupid or brazen, but I see these inappropriate disclosures on Facebook on a regular basis.

My mid-life clients will be dating others and the relationship hits a rocky road.  Suddenly, my client finds a lot of unfavorable things being written about them on their ex’s Wall and there’s not a whole thing they can do about it.  Their impulse is to write something equally nasty back on their Facebook wall and the next thing you know, all junior high school petty hell has broken loose.

The one that kills me most is the relationship status, “It’s complicated.”  I hate it when I see people with that as their relationship status.  I become nosey and curious.  I want to know the scoop and suddenly have an urgent need-to-know what the heck is so complicated.  And then I don't like myself for being like this.

I cringe when parents who are single put “It’s Complicated" as their relationship status because I know they have “friended” their children.  Do their offspring really need to know that their love relationships are complicated and messy? 

I had a friend recently put on his Facebook status that he was engaged in a new business that could land him in jail for years.  I also saw that his teenage children were his “friends”.  When I questioned the wisdom of this obvious overshare, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “Oh that doesn’t bother them.”  Really?

A good friend and attorney told me many years ago to never write an email, leave a voice mail, text a message, write a post that I didn’t imagine that everyone in the entire planet could read.

The divorce attorneys are taking this to a whole new level and I can’t say that I blame them.  But as a family therapist, I get to try to help my clients clean up the messes of their lurid exposes, or even better, avoid them altogether.

I don’t care about the attorneys, the attorneys are being attorneys.   I care about the children in these families.  Hundreds of them are being exposed on a daily basis to the goings on of their suddenly single parents.  I once sat in my office listening to a teenage kid lecture their father about how embarrassing his Facebook page was to him.

The parents should be ashamed of themselves.  It’s a wacky world when kids are becoming parental with their parents. 

Too bad these kids don’t have the power to ground them and take their computers away for a month.  Or even better, give them a good old-fashioned spanking.


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Great post, as usual! On the run! Will call you from the road! xo
Wow. Good advice! Pay attention people!
Hell, even as my anonymous self here at OS, there are some things I just don't write about! I think that attorney had good advice - don't commit it in any recordable form unless the whole world could read it - someday they might!
Excellent, excellent post, Mary. This whole over sharing aspect of Facebook is a narcissist's dream that eventually becomes their nightmare. If you expose every detail of your life, you can't expect it to come back and bite you in the ass. But to then blame everyone else for why it happened is going to be the next realm of litigation, I'm sure. Gah.
It is ominous. Interesting point about kids parenting their children. Is that the Boomer splash back? The indulged kids of the product of the Depression and WWII whose parents wanted them to "have it all" in a way they could not having difficulty not having it all when to do so impacts the kids? I know a few elder boomers whose kids cringe at their need to keep them on the up and up.

I, of course, am a box of chocolates.
Totally, totally agree.

I've been a participant in blogging sites and online communications now for over 10 years. I have written the blog post that revealed negative feelings about a friend and had that friend read it and confront me about it.

I have seen kids post things on facebook their parents would be upset by. I've seen corporate officers write things in private blogs that come back to bite them professionally. People need to remember that the Internet is forever. And everyone sees everything.

And the delete key only works to a point. Hard drives and cached pages preserve everything.
It is so very simple: never write, record, or otherwise make available/transmit in any electronic format personal opinions, thoughts or images that you aren't prepared to "own" for an indeterminate length of time. No matter how good your security settings are. And if you don't know how to set security settings on social sites like FB, or if you choose to trust the "default" settings, all I can say is "User beware!"
Just realized that should have read, "you can expect it to come back and bite you in the ass.". And one shouldn't be surprised if/when it does. There are predators (lawyers) in them there hills....
Great information. I never post anything ( since my mom asked me to "friend" her) that my mom can't read without frowning. Rated.
But just think...if there weren't messy people out wouldn't have anyone for clients...I do admit that the "It's complicated" status is yuck. If I felt that I had to have a status designation like that I would go back to single in reality. R
All the more reason to be an anonymous persona - I mean you don't really think I live in FL do you? and I'm certainly NOT a medical professional although I love acting the part. Like Owl Said, some things are just better left off the internet. I prefer to keep some things between the sheets... of the book pages lying on my editor's desk. And no, I'm not at all interested in 'friending' you, so don't ask.
You said it Mary "Too bad these kids don’t have the power to ground them and take their computers away for a month"
So if I put "It's Complicated" on my facebook page I will get more friends? He he.

And I understand the desire for revenge after a breakup, I just don't understand going through with it.
"Do their offspring really need to know that their love relationships are complicated and messy?" yes :) Parents are people, with their own inner worlds, needs and dreams; children of teen years and above should be able to get that.

The rest I'm mulling over. I think it's probably better to be more circumspect, especially when writing anything, but I don't think I have it in me to do that. I wish I did Mary, it's good advice.
sorry, rate then post :)
This is a very well done and timely post. I am amazed at what people post on fb and sometimes even here. I think to myself, what are they thinking, what if they change their mind, in the mean time herds of people run from one side of the sinking ship to another, almost like watching a tennis match. Personal lives, broken, collapsed and undisguised in anyway, up for grabs. Sad. How do they go back from such exposure to any once of respect they may have once had for themselves or their writing. Amazing. The stories are out there. People delete their fb comments, they delete their posts here, but they have already been seen, all the craziness and breakdowns. It is not a word said to a friend it is a word said to the world, the world that is unkind and twisted and eats you up. People must realize. I think your post helps people see the damages more clearly. R
This is just common sense. I have even heard of lawyers using the discount tags from stores to make a case for alcohol use as well.
Therefore, be smart people-pay cash!
I have been guilty of over-sharing on social networking sites. I am happily divorced, but I have learned the value leaving private things private. Unfortunately, not everyone learns that lesson until it's much too late. (R)
But when you are announcing the divorce it's an easy click to share that with loved ones all over the world.
So valid and valuable. Another point -- employers are checking Facebook pages of existing or potential employees. When my son was in college and interning summers in his chosen field, he asked me to help him clean up and position his Facebook page for optimum value. He started his profession with a clean online record.

Kids have a sense of perspective on this. Too many parents don't get the digital age.
This is another way of making the point that all of the technology available to us should not be used for some of the things it is being used for.

I have written a lot about the issue of sexting. To me the posts on Facebook are in the same category. They shouldn't be shared.

Just like the young guys should learn that, as tempting as it is, not to send naked pics of girls they know to anyone else. Maybe just show the other guys and then delete (or print out but hide) the photos. If the guys had done that instead of sending them via phone or computer, there would be no evidence and these guys could continue to receive naked photos of girls they know or might know.

In the old days, the Kodak Instamatic (instant cameras) were all we needed to get naked pictures of the girls, and then we could hide or destroy any possible evidence after us guys saw the photos. There were no arrests, and no involvement. More importantly, the girls didn't have parents and authorities in the way to stop them.

Now I guess we have to explain to divorced people or those in complicated relationships not to share information that could hurt them legally. What others can't find can't hurt them!
Wow. How low will some people go, and we're not talking limbo folks.
My barely-adult step kids are my friends on FB, so I make sure not to post anything I wouldn't want them repeating... even if I DO lock them out of certain posts...
I have a beef with the "It's Complicated" label as well... aren't ALL relationships complicated? If they were simple, there wouldn't be much of a relationship.
I personally know of at least on law enforcement official using facebook to make arrests involving Ilegal drugs.

H also get a big kick out of going to pro Medical marijuana or prop 19 chat rooms or blogs to make trollish comments just for the hell of it.

Much like the trolls here on OS
Facebook seems like it could be nothing but trouble. I guess I better stay happily married! Great post as always!
Upon rereading this post with my full attention, I have one thing to say as it pertains to the attorneys: "No Fault States." Can't mean a whole lot to folks going through divorces where there is "no fault" or the unimaginable, "blame." I am 100% with you when it comes to the children and certain adults should be taken out back with horse crop to their back sides, for sure. Otherwise, I don't see the use in lawyers digging up dirt on FB or other social networks, unless they are resorting to good old fashioned black mail of one spouse's bad behavior to sway the settlement decisions in the favor of the other. All of us god fearing divorcee's are all going to hell in a hand basket anyway! Effing civil law attorneys be damed. (T hee)
Here is a newsflash: just don't ever use the Internet and save yourself the trouble!

Oh wait ... that means I've gotta go...

I find that interesting a teenager was telling his father that a Facebook account was embarrassing him. Suck it up, kiddo! I'm embarrassed by everything my parents do, by everything my sisters post on Facebook. It's called "family."

Also I recommend everyone just go delete almost all your Updates regarding you and delete all your personal info off of there right now. That's what I did when they started selling our info for profit.
While I have not yet perused others' Facebook pages on my clients' behalf, a couple of them have forwarded printed out copies of their ex or soon-to-be-ex's pages - got a new job? got a new "friend"? Someone is going to see it and, if possible, use it for their advantage. People just know when to shut the hell up, especially over the internet.
I meant "need to know when to shut up" - stupid laptop.
I don't know about this. I've written plenty of stuff I wouldn't want my mother to see and am cringing now that she's thinking about becoming computer literate at age 75. Who knows? Maybe she'll read something I've written about my childhood and freak out. But my ability to write about these things on Slate's Fray, Open Salon, and my own blog has been an enormously positive thing in my life. I think the same thing is true for a number of writers on Open Salon. Certainly, there are costs to internet openness, but there are also important benefits and they shouldn't be underestimated.
Sage advice, of course, but I have to admit feeling a little schadenfreud. Kids are expected to be dumb, so they are often shocked to discover that probation officers often peruse their pages. But grown-ups in a custody fight? Duh!
Mary -- Dyanamite post and one which, though it may be "common sense" to us smarties here, obviously is far beyond the grasp of many otherwise sophisticated folks. I hear it -- and see it! all the time. Even my own raving, lunatic self, hiding behind a decades-old nickname, am, believe it or not, circumspect. What I divulge here I would (and sometimes do) scream on a street corner. There's so much I filter, and it's mostly precisely for the sake of my children, relatives, former wives, national security, etc. That this warning is necessary speaks volumes about the hubris and self-importance of people who ought to know better. Thank goodness they have you looking out for them -- they sure don't look out for themselves. Rated!
Okay, this is a pretty fascinating concept, although I'm not surprised to find it here on your blog. rated.
I guess even Ambulence chasing has gone high tech.
you seem to have a penchant for privacy even in borderline/gray areas. on the other hand, if someone is breaking the law, maybe it really is better if they brag about it on facebook.
in some cases "its complicated" is shorthand for "its none of your business". or "not all relationships fit into black/white cookie cutter patterns"
I forgot to mention this on the day I saw it but 24 hours after you posted this CNN Headline news did a story on it. I guess they saw your article too, although they didn't give you proper credit.
I feel sorry for public figures when I see every private detail of their lives exposed by unscrupulous reporters from tabloids like The National Enquirer. So what exactly motivates we non-celebrities to submit shameless reports on ourselves - airing our dirty laundry, our petty squabbles, our loitering juvenility? How lonely have we become to find solace in cackling attention from the faceless masses? Privacy, discretion and tact are timeless traits which indicate good character, qualities we all would do well to contemplate a bit more closely. Mooning the camera to entertain the media is questionable on a Beavis and Butthead cartoon - but utterly repugnant among adults.
In the days before social media, a family court judge once admonished an attorney in a divorce with domestic violence for referring to the domestic violence in the divorce papers. The judge expressed the concern that when the child grew up, the child might go to the courthouse and read the court file! Wonder what he'd say now. Today, if actually so inclined, the child probably wouldn't have to go to all the trouble of going down to the courthouse to read the court file.

Janet Langjahr, Divorce Attorney, West Palm Beach