We hear a lot about how social media is either playing a part in a divorce or aiding and abetting one side in building a case against the other party when a couple calls it quits. There is no doubt people have to be careful about how they use social media when going through a divorce. However, those who deal in matters of divorce are starting to find Facebook, Skype and other forms of social media can actually be used for the benefit of both parties involved. Here are just a some examples of how logging on can become an asset for divorcees:
FINDING RESOURCES & SERVICES
If you are looking to get divorced but don't know where to begin, social media can provide you with instant access to all the resources you'll need -- from information on trusted attorneys to tips on how to handle custody.
Social media can also be used "to find information about matters such as spousal support (alimony), how to tell the kids (you are getting divorced), whether retirement accounts are marital assets in their state," and so forth, says Virginia L Colin, Ph.D., a certified professional family mediator from Virginia.
Also, social media can be a helpful tool when it comes to verifying a person's professional reputation. So before hiring an attorney, conduct a search on him or her to see what others have to say about their working relationship.
"Almost any time you are asking for input from family lawyers, it is a good idea also to invite input from family mediators," Colin adds. "We help people keep distress and expenses to a minimum when they are divorcing."
Colin recommends the site Professional Family Mediators as a source to turn to when looking for mediators. "Any couple planning a divorce can use Facebook to their benefit because they can use it to find a professional family mediator, who can probably save them thousands and thousands of dollars," says Colin, who also posts many helpful tips on her own Facebook page.
KEEPING UP WITH THE KIDS
Couples with children are likely to find social media to be a big help when it comes to keeping tabs on them. Kyung (Kathryn) Dickerson, a family law attorney and partner at the firm SmolenPlevy in Virginia, says, "Social media is a way for parents who are estranged from their children -- for whatever reason -- to maintain a presence in the child's life without the child being forced into scheduled visitation."
One of the biggest challenges when sharing custody is distance. "If there is physical distance between the parties and the children, (especially with) a military parent on deployment, a foreign service parent assigned abroad or a corporate parent who is assigned to an office in a different country or part of the country for a period of time, a family site or friending a child's site is a great way for the parent to stay actively involved in the child's life," Dickerson suggests.
Creating "a family site allows the children to have a place where their family is all together, even if they aren't together physically so it maintains a sense that at some level the family is still intact."
Social media also fosters greater communication. Dickerson says:
More than just relying on the other parent to inform them via email as to the child's activities, the parent can see pictures, see who the child's friends are, post their comments/encouragement/responses, etc. Depending on the age of the child, it gives the parents insight into the child's moods, thoughts and day-to-day experiences.
Dickerson recalls, "There was a time that attorneys were suggesting visitation via Skype. (Social media) is just an extension of that and a way for the parents to have more meaningful conversations with their child. (For example, 'I saw the pictures/videos of you at the swim meet. You looked great doing the crawl, especially on that last turn!')."
And when social media is "used appropriately, it can eliminate a lot of the 'she won't share information about the children with me,' issues about what the children are doing when they are with the other parent on vacation, and the 'he said/she said' about what the children are thinking/saying about what they want or don't want regarding activities and spending time with the other parent," Dickerson added. Moreover, "it also allows for communication that is open for everyone (which) this limits or reveals verbally/emotionally abusive statements."
What do you think? Is social media friend of foe in divorce?
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Kelly Rouba is an accomplished journalist and public speaker, having started her career at age 19 when she took a position as a stringer for the Trenton Times while still in college. Among the various publications she now writes for is Action magazine, thisabled.com, and mobilewomen.org. She is also the author of Juvenile Arthritis: The Ultimate Teen Guide.