Technology, Evidence & Divorce: Smartphones

This is our third blog in a series on technology and divorce.  We previously covered text messages and social media.  Today we are going to focus the phone itself.  As technology becomes more ingrained in our lives, it is important that we are mindful of how it can positively and negatively impact our divorce. Our phones, it turns out, are always working in the background.

Your Phone Plan

Very often married couples and families use family plans that allow someone to gain access to the accounts in the plan.  For example, on iPhones, parties can set up family sharing settings.  This means that family members can opt in to allow other family members to be able to see their location in Friends and Messages.  What is meant to be a convenient and safe tool, can become problematic when you separate in a divorce and don’t change your settings.

This means an ex-spouse can see where you are at any time.  This can be problematic for a variety reasons and you should change your settings immediately to avoid any issues.  In addition, it’s a good idea to update your account passwords.  With Apple, if someone has your iCloud password, they can view activity on, and even make changes to, your phone, apps, email accounts and the account itself. 

I don’t want this to sound too sinister or nefarious.  But the reality is that divorce is hard on everyone and people make emotional decisions during the process.  Things can get messy when the lure of logging into an ex-spouse’s phone account to see what they are doing is hanging around out there. 

 

DEPRESSION AND DIVORCE

With the news of suicide among two well-known and well-loved celebrities in a one-week period, the conversation about despair and relationships has opened up in a different way than it has before.

            While you may not design beautiful handbags or travel the world as your profession, you may have thought that the pain you are experiencing in your relationship whether deciding to divorce, going through the process of divorce, or the aftermath of divorce would be alleviated if you were no longer here.  You may have even thought that your children would be better off without a mother who was so depressed.  You may have thought that your future looks bleak without hope of improving.  You may have even thought of many ‘rational’ arguments why this is true.

            Relationship difficulties account for 43% of suicides and women are at greater risk of suicide than men.  For these reasons, I’d like you to read what I’m about to tell you closely and seriously.

            While you may not have a plan to end your life, many people think, “I wouldn’t kill myself but I wouldn’t mind if I went to sleep and didn’t wake up”.  Everyone goes through heart-wrenching difficulties; no one is spared, even those you believe “have it all”: wealth, fame, beauty, talent, seemingly wonderful relationships.  Everyone has experienced pain in which they thought they couldn’t move on or just take another breath. 

            If you have loved greatly, you have also felt pain in equal measure.  That is the human condition and sometimes it tests us to the breaking point.

            If you are on the precipice of making a change in your marriage or going through a divorce, your life is going through enormous challenges.  YOU WILL GET THROUGH TO THE OTHER SIDE, I promise you.

            Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain left preteen daughters.  Their lives will never be the same.  Children of parents who commit suicide typically experience guilt, confusion, trust issues, depression, relationship difficulties, self-esteem problems, substance use and more.  No, your child will not be better off without you, even in a divorce.  They need you, however you are right now.  They are still better off than without you.

            If you are thinking of taking your life, remember that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.  Please talk to a trusted family member, friend or clergy.  Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “help” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

            As David Spade said following his sister-in-law’s death: “It’s a rough world out there. Try to hang on”.  Take good care.

SHE WASN’T LOOKING FOR A KNIGHT, SHE WAS LOOKING FOR A SWORD

I found that quote the other day and it immediately resonated with me.  How many women have I counseled who were in a marriage in which they were disappointed by their husbands for not taking care of them, not seeing who they were, not fulfilling their needs, neglecting them, and on and on?       

Of course that’s what we all want, men and women alike.  But, when we define ourselves by our partner fulfilling us or when we don’t know how to provide for our own needs, we set ourselves up for pain.  Why? Because no one can do it all for us.  I find this to be true particularly in women who don’t have a definition of themselves separate from their husband or children.       

When you look for a “knight” to be your everything, you will usually find the court jester who has a good game for a short period of time.  In the meantime, you’ve invested your heart, soul, body and future in this inadequate person who—in the clear light of day—was never your “knight” to begin with.       

What would happen if you actually looked for a sword?  Your sword?  Your invincible weapon that makes you impervious to what is thrown at you?  Ask yourself: what is YOUR sword?  Is it your knowledge?  Your compassion?  Your ability to foresee situations before they present themselves?  Your friendships with other women?  Your mothering skills?  The way you persevere?  How you survived your childhood intact?     It’s time to stop waiting for a knight who only exists in fairy tales and pick up your own sword...and use it!

Technology, Evidence & Divorce – Let’s Talk About Your Social Media Posts

As our lives become increasingly virtual, so does the evidence in divorce cases.  In a prior blog post, we covered the impact of text messages on legal divorce cases.  After all, it’s the way most of us communicate these days.  Today we are going to cover social media, the place where many of us broadcast our lives to friends, family and the public at large.  It should come as no surprise that social media posts play a role as evidence in divorce cases.

Your Social Media Posts

I always caution clients to be careful when posting to social media.  Even if they think their post is innocent, it could come back to haunt them in divorce.  That is not to say they shouldn’t post at all, but to simply be mindful when they do.  For example, a post of a girls’ night out to dinner or a bar may be completely innocent and, frankly, much needed self-care.  However, posts with alcohol can be used to support allegations that a person has a drinking problem.  Or, if it’s on a night when you have the children, it could be argued you aren’t spending time with them. Again, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t post to social media if that’s an important part of your life, but be mindful when you do.  In any case, it’s always a good idea to make profiles private and limit who can see your posts.

Your Friends’ Social Media Posts

Even if you are very careful about posting to social media, your friends and family may not be. Even if you don’t post at all or make your posts private, you can still turn up on social media.  Let your friends know that, because of your divorce, you need to approve any social media posts that include you.  Or, simply have a rule that you don’t want to show up in any social media posts. This isn’t the easiest objective to accomplish, but it should hopefully limit your social media footprint. Also be sure to have your social media alerts set up to let you know if you are tagged in any posts.  You can also adjust your settings to prevent people from tagging you

DID YOU THINK YOU MARRIED A PRINCE?

When Meghan Markle married Harry of Windsor, she became legit royalty by marrying a prince.  By all outward appearances, her new husband seems to be caring, attentive and an all-around good chap.  Hopefully, it will have the fairy-tale ending that those who care about these things hope for.  They are newlyweds—after all—just like you were, and everyone hopes for a happy ending at a wedding.

But, that wasn’t the only wedding occurring that day and it’s not the only important wedding that has occurred in the history of time.  Your wedding was more important.  Your marriage was more important to you.  Didn’t you think you had married a “prince” as well?

When considering divorce, one of the most devastating situations women have to reconcile in their minds is this one: I didn’t marry the person I thought I had.  I thought I married the person with whom I would would share my life for the rest of time.  I expected a fairy-tale ending.

When people in marriages change from who we think they are and when marriages change from what we thought they would be, looking at it with clear eyes and truth can be crushing.  Oftentimes, it takes years to come to a conclusion, one way or the other.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have a new fairy-tale ending: the one you create that puts you at the center of your life.  The one in which you have control.  The one in which your children see you happy and peaceful.  The one in which you make your own decisions and decide to do better this time...with or without a tiara.

 

THEY TOLD ME I COULDN’T... SO I DID

Does that idea resonate for you?  I have been thinking a lot about this thought and the ways in which it applies to my life and the women I counsel.  How many of us have been told that we cant, shouldn’t, won’t?  What have you been told, either outright or implied?

            *You can’t defy your husband,

            *You can’t go back to school,

            *You won’t ever be happy if you divorce,

            *You can’t “break up” your family,

            *You shouldn’t ask for too much,

            *You won’t be able to find a good job that supports you,

            *You won’t find a man as good as your husband,

            *You can’t divorce your husband; it will ruin your children,

            *You won’t be able to make it on your own.

            The moment you believe other peoples’ limitations of your abilities and what you deserve, you’ve given them your power and given them control of your life and happiness.  Why in the world would you think of doing that?  Your life belongs to YOU. 

            What would happen if you not only defied their expectations but your own?  What if you didn’t let fear and apprehension rule your decisions?  What if you acted like the warrior princess that you already are and own your life? 

            Disappointment never killed anyone but making decisions based upon fear is always a poor choice.

            This is your moment, your day, your month, your year to put yourself out into the world.  You’ve already conformed to others’ expectations of you and if you weren’t happy with those outcomes, why not live another way.

            What do YOU want right now?  What do YOU expect of your life? What passions have YOU never pursued because you were told you couldn’t?  What if—here’s a crazy idea—you just did them?  What if you started investigating them, planning them, figuring it out?

            Here is your new mantra:

THEY TOLD ME I COULDN’T...SO I DID!

THE COMEBACK IS ALWAYS STRONGER THAN THE SETBACK

Words to live by, don’t you think?  When you are contemplating divorce, you can relive a thousand setbacks in your marriage.  While going through the process, setbacks are inevitable and very challenging.  Post-divorce, you may second guess your decision or have regrets in your marriage.  Any way you slice it, divorce isn’t a slice of chocolate cake and there seems to be setback after setback.  You may be asking yourself when those setbacks are going to take a back seat in your life.

            The simple answer is: when you begin planning for your comeback.  Remember: you only have control over three things in your life: your own thoughts, your own behaviors and your own reactions.  It may not seem like much but actually it’s your entire life.  That’s a lot of power...if you choose to focus your thoughts and energy in that direction.  You don’t have control over the setbacks your wusband or others put in your path.  But, how amazing would it be to plan and bigger and better comeback?

            Comeback to what, you may wonder after a long series of setbacks?  Comeback to your passion.  Comeback to your dignity.  Comeback to your purpose.  Comeback to owning your life.  Comeback to the dreams and plans you put on hold.  Comeback to your joy.

            When you divorce, there is pain and regret.  But there is also the possibility of beginning and new and better life on your terms.  You have the opportunity to define the rules and build new relationships with better boundaries. 

            There are countless tales of sports teams or individual athletes who endured failure after failure and then went on to win the World Series or a gold medal.  Heck, the Red Sox went a few generations without a big win and then won two World Series.  Doesn’t that make the win even sweeter and more meaningful?

            How about if you start rooting for yourself?  Why not plan for your big win?

            THE COMEBACK IS ALWAYS STRONGER THAN THE SETBACK!

Technology, Evidence and Divorce – Let’s Talk About Text Messages

Over the years, new technology has become increasingly common in divorce cases.  In fact, it is rare that that one or both parties doesn’t rely on some type of evidence from their phone or computer. It makes you wonder what these cases looked like before smart phones, social media and even (I’m dating myself here) the Internet.  Due to the large role technology plays in a legal divorce case, it’s critical to be mindful of one’s digital footprint (and how it can be used against you) and how to preserve that evidence so it can help you.  Today, let’s focus on text messages.

Text messages

Let’s be honest, we text to communicate for most things these days.  The good and bad news is that text messages create a written record of events that many of us wouldn’t remember otherwise.  The golden rule here is simple – do not delete your text messages with your Ex.  I hear all the time how clients delete text messages because they didn’t want to see them anymore, hated the thought of them being on their phone or they were simply too upsetting.  From an evidentiary standpoint, that is risky.  Those text messages may be helpful to prove a point or allegation down the road.  Or, they may be useful in defending against an allegation. 

For example, let’s say one parent is accusing my client of keeping the children from him.  If my client can produce text messages from different dates, where she is offering for him to spend time with the children, it will go a long way towards disproving his allegations.  If she deletes those text messages, then it’s her word verses his, and her defense gets a lot harder.  But what if she can’t stand having those text messages on her phone?

Retaining the Evidence

First off, I always recommend keeping text messages on your phone in their original format.  However, if you absolutely can’t stand having them on your phone, there are two steps one can take.  First, take a screenshot (a photo of what is on your screen) of the text messages.  Be sure to capture the dates and times.  Make sure the screenshots show a little piece of the prior message so the series reads together. 

Second, email them to yourself.  Use or create an account your Ex doesn’t know about.  This is also a good practice if you are concerned your Ex will access your phone to delete any text messages.  You may never need them, but with evidence I always adhere to a simple rule – it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.