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When divorce gets dirty, how do you protect your reputation?

Vardags delivers the lowdown on how to navigate a messy divorce while keeping your reputation in tact

Divorce, alone, can be painful. Divorcing where conflict exists can be even more so. Putting these problems onto the web or into the careful watch of the public eye can be devastating. Private details or false accusations could end up scuppering your reputation and everything that goes hand-in-hand with that – your job, your social life, your credibility – forever.

Along with this, wealth and fame often entail huge media interest in relation to every aspect of a person’s life, with particular interest piqued in the case of a divorce. The public thirst for knowledge can also drive the media to keep digging deeper, with a universal ‘airing out’ of a couple’s dirty laundry. One need only turn to some of the most recent celebrity divorces – Depp, Bezos, Gates, Pitt and Jolie – to see this.

However, even if your divorce does not have any reason to be ‘high profile’, any undue exposure can still have a tangible impact on your life. Especially with the advent of social media and the ever-increasing rate of technologisation, it is more important than ever to be aware of how best to manage your reputation throughout the divorce process and beyond.

Social media and the internet can make private information completely public to millions in a matter of seconds; worse still, this digital footprint can prove extremely hard to remove.

Fortunately, Reputation and Privacy solicitor at Vardags, Eva Wallace is here to provide some useful tips on how best to protect your reputation during, and after, divorce…

Protecting your reputation: the low down

Be aware

Where significant assets are at stake, it is not unknown for parties to air the relationship’s dirty laundry to try and gain an advantage. This mudslinging can then creep into a strategy of who can most successfully ruin, or expose, whom.

I have seen plenty of examples of this, spouses who:

  • Hire private investigators
  • Install CCTV in the family home and in their partner’s car (without their knowledge)
  • Hack emails and phones
  • Leak embarrassing photos or information to the press or on social media for friends and relatives to see
  • Leak false information to scupper reputations

There is, quite honestly, no limit to the tactics some people are prepared to employ. My first advice to clients – especially if relations between you and your spouse are conflicted – is to be aware of this and get advice on how to best protect yourself and your reputation.

Be socially savvy

Suited man doing up button

Being socially savvy does not mean knowing all the ins-and-outs of social media and technology. It is just about ensuring that any platform on which you post, follow people, or share information, is kept private. This ensures that anything which could disadvantage your position or harm your reputation in a divorce cannot be picked up by your spouse or a third party.

Social media is not a safe space to share and vent when it comes to divorce and can actually cause further problems down the line. Most importantly, it is crucial to be aware of the fact that family proceedings are inherently confidential, especially cases involving children.

Sharing details about your divorce online may be brought to the court’s attention (if you are involved in court proceedings), consequently causing serious damage to your case. At best, you may get a slap on the wrist. At the most extreme, you could receive a custodial sentence for contempt of court.

Unfortunately, social media users are only ever getting smarter, and very often the option to stay public and simply ‘block’ a specific person(s) is insufficient to keep them away. Even though Instagram now has the option to ‘block all accounts’ associated with one user, this doesn’t stop your spouse from enrolling other people to stalk or view your profile.

A good rule of thumb is to assume that your ex-partner can see everything: even if you have blocked them from viewing your profile or posts, this does not mean that your posts are completely hidden from them. For example, mutual friends may see your content and send that on to your ex-spouse. Remember, taking a screenshot only takes a second, and can mean something is preserved forever (even if deleted at the source).

Lady sitting by a window

If you want to stay public, you should consider opening a second account to which you can post any private information. You should remain vigilant in these instances though - the Wagatha Christie battle between Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy, which recently hit the press, is itself an example of ‘trying to keep things private’ going wrong, especially if you cannot guarantee the intentions or actions of the people you permit to follow that account.

This is also why you should remain careful of what you post online whether publicly or privately. Anger and hurt can blind us. Venting on social media is not akin to writing in a private journal. Everything that you do on the internet leaves a pretty deeply embedded digital footprint that can prove hard to completely erase. Always think – how would I feel if my boss, family, colleagues, or close friends saw this post?

Another important consideration is to think very carefully about posting negative statements about your ex-spouse or partner. It is only natural to exaggerate slightly and say things to intentionally hurt the other party during a divorce. However, sharing false information that could be seen to damage the reputation of your ex-spouse or partner may well be considered defamatory, and you could be held liable for any damage caused.

Be cyber secure

Do not underestimate the power of having appropriate cyber security measures in place. You can enrol the services of professionals for this purpose, who can help you secure your devices from threats of hacking. This involves the likes of updating passwords regularly, installing two-factor authentication and being careful about how and where you store private information.

To fortify this, you can also have digital audits and bug sweeps carried out to ensure that your digital footprint is clean, and that there is no one capable of securing any incriminating recordings or photos of you without your knowledge or consent.

Be prepared

Vardags

In cases where you or your spouse are particularly high profile, there exists an added layer of concern regarding press intrusion. You might even be facing requests to make comment on the matter.

Every client has a different view of receiving media attention, however, if it is the case that you want your private life to remain private, it is recommended that you engage a ‘crisis team’ who can swiftly handle any intrusive enquiries, comments or claims made.

Our Reputation and Privacy Team at Vardags have the in-depth expertise and experience to assist clients who have received media attention and requests to comment. We can also ensure that the necessary non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are put in place with to prevent any close connections releasing certain information.

Your wellbeing is our upmost priority, and we strive to do everything we can to ensure that you come out the other side of a relationship breakdown ready to start afresh.

At Vardags we know that, when things get dirty, they get tough. As such, we provide our clients with specialist advice that covers all bases, from cyber security through to crisis response.

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