Tweet and post limits work their way into prenups
Social-media users know sometimes things get posted online whether they “like” it or not.
The concern of unflattering, insulting or just plain embarrassing posts appearing on their timelines is enough to make some couples seek legal advice. As a result, social-media clauses are popping up in prenuptial agreements, industry insiders report.
“It is a topic of discussion, especially for affluent people or people in the public eye,” says Kathleen Grace, managing director of United Capital Financial Advisors and author of “Prince Not So Charming” (Excelsior Capital Holdings, $14.99), which offers strategies for women to regain financial control.
“Prenups are an important tool to outline specifically these types of situations,” Grace says. “Say you're a model and that's your livelihood, and someone posts pictures of you not looking so good. Does that damage your ability to get modeling contracts?”
Fauna Solomon, Pittsburgh-based blogger at TheDatingTruth.com, says she would consider addressing social media in a prenuptial agreement.
“Even in my professional life, I've dialed down what I put out there about personal relationships a ton,” Solomon says. “There's a learning curve for everyone. There is no crash course on social media. I would totally consider it. I could see how you can cross that line.”
Social media is a common cause for concern during dating and after the relationship ends, says Rachel Sussman, New York-based marriage and relationship therapist.
“It's something you hear a lot about when they're breaking up — he or she de-friended me on Facebook or there is a barrage of spying or stalking by the ex on Instagram,” Suss-man says. “Dating couples are always looking at each other's Facebook pages, seeing if they're ‘In a Relationship' or not, if the person is tagged in any photos he or she shouldn't be, or if they posted a picture they think is inappropriate.”
When putting your position on social media into a prenup, it's important to avoid ambiguous language, Grace says. After all, “what is embarrassing to you might not be to someone else,” she says.
“You have to be prepared to litigate because it is so broad, or the prenup clause has to be so ultra specific and take into consideration each and every situation, which is probably impossible,” she says.
Harry Gruener, clinical associate professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh and family-law veteran, says there have been cases of spouses making odd prenuptial provisions, such as how often they'll have sex and who will walk the dog. But when it comes to social-media use, it's yet to be seen how courts will handle such clauses.
“There are all sorts of problems about free expression and how you would enforce that,” he says. “You can put anything you want in there. The question is whether a judge is going to waste his time with it.”
However, attempting to hurt an ex-spouse on social media could reflect poorly on the person during child-custody hearings and alimony distribution, he says.
“If a client said to me, ‘I'm going to put my wife's naked picture up,' my advice to him would be, ‘You are crazy,' ” Gruener says. “It's just a bad idea, unless you want a judge to be clearly convinced you are depraved.”
The far better option, Sussman says, is to talk to your partner from the get-go about what is acceptable and what will not be tolerated.
“Say your fiance or girlfriend posted something that embarrassed you,” she says. “Articulate that. Say, ‘I don't think this presents us in the best light, and this is something I really want us to work on.'”
It also helps to establish some rules, such as:
• Always display your-self or the couple in a respectful manner. “If your girlfriend fell asleep drunk at a party, don't put a hat on her and put a picture on Facebook.”
• Never air your grievances online. This can present a huge problem, especially if you end up getting back together, because then everyone knows your dirty laundry.
• And remember, “Even if you break up, no good can come of #ihatemyex.”
Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or firstname.lastname@example.org.