When couples who are in the public eye divorce, social media can become a platform for attacks, misinformation, and conflict. It is possible to keep your private affairs from becoming public and avoid the publicity involved with dissecting the end of your relationship on social media.
Impact of Divorce-Related Postings
In general, posting negative things about a divorce actually hurts both people. The person who is discussed in a derogatory manner faces emotional distress, and in the case of a complicated divorce, it can also impact that person’s brand and public image. The postings may then also create a financial impact if their ability to work is impinged. The person who posts the derogatory items may also suffer a negative public image impact if their posts are not regarded favorably by their followers and the media.
Kanye-Kim Divorce Is the Worst-Case Scenario
After being married for seven years, Kim Kardashian filed for divorce from Kanye West in February of 2021. Earlier this month, the court declared them each to be single, but the other details of the divorce have not yet been finalized. The couple has a prenuptial agreement that determines the division of their assets, but they also share four children, so a parenting plan must be determined before the divorce can be finalized.
The couple’s divorce has been front-page news lately because Kanye regularly posts about his opinions and their interactions on social media. He has also posted derogatory and possibly threatening things about Pete Davidson, whom Kim is dating. In fact, after Kanye posted a racial slur about Trevor Noah, who discussed Kanye’s behavior towards Kim, Instagram suspended Kanye for 24 hours.
Kim so far has not taken any action about Kanye’s posts, other than exhorting the court to quickly allow her to become single in the hope that doing so might reduce his public reactions. For the most part, Kanye's posts have engendered negative responses, and public opinion has supported Kim.
Come to an Agreement
So, what do you do if your spouse posts about you and your divorce on social media? Most people in a complex divorce do not want to see their personal details and struggles on social media. The easiest way to avoid this is to come to an agreement with your spouse that if necessary, you will post one agreed-upon post about the divorce (along the usual lines of you have decided to end your marriage but have mutual respect and ask for privacy at this time) and then that neither of you will mention the divorce or each on social media moving forward. Many couples in the public eye are able to coordinate this and reach this type of agreement before the news of the divorce becomes public.
Refuse to Engage
If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement about how to approach social media, the best policy may be for you to completely ignore anything your spouse posts. Don’t respond or post your own thinly veiled accusations as retorts. Remain completely silent on the issue. Block them so that you do not see the posts (but have someone else monitor them to make sure they do not rise to the level of threats or disclosure of protected information). Often these situations die down if you do not react, since it’s difficult to have an argument with someone who isn’t saying a word.
Rely on Platform Policies
If your spouse becomes abusive or threatening towards you on social media, you can report them to the platform, and they may have their account suspended, as Kanye’s was. You don’t have to directly engage with them or file any legal documents. This kind of action may be enough to get your spouse to stop this behavior.
Take Legal Action
If none of the above options work, you should talk with your attorney. It is possible to work out an attorney-negotiated settlement regarding social media posts. If that fails, then your attorney can file a motion with the court requesting that the judge direct your spouse to refrain from discussing you or the divorce on social media.
Be aware that there is a case law stating that a court cannot prohibit a litigant from posting about their divorce on social media because it is a free speech violation. Note that if posts are causing actual financial harm to a person’s brand, constitute actual threats or harassment, or negatively impact the children of the marriage, there may be a path forward for a court order prohibiting them.
Controlling the messaging and social media discussion about your divorce is key in protecting your brand and public image. It is extremely important to consider the legal implications of your divorce and the public relations and professional ramifications.