Almost everyone getting divorced these days goes online for help, whether that’s looking for information to help avoid using attorneys or for emotional support but are you making your divorce worse or better going online?
The good news is that there is a ton of information and resources available now. The bad news is that some of these could harm you more than help you. So what are the pitfalls of going online? What are the risks? How can you tell which sources are trustworthy and dependable and which sources should you steer clear of? What are the red flags you should be watching for?
Joining me for this Conversation is Gregory Frank, co-founder of Divorce Force, one of the premier online communities committed to connecting and empowering those affected by divorce. Frank is an advocate of taking advantage of everything the Internet has to offer but cautions people to be smart. “The good news is that there are so many capabilities and so much information that you can obtain online that it’s a phenomenal place to start.”
Listen in below or keep reading to learn Frank’s advice for being smart online …
What Online Resources Are We Talking About?
When we talk about online resources for divorce we’re basically talking about anything and everything.
“There’s a world of information and data that’s available really at your fingertips on all things divorce, whether it’s pre-planning for divorce, you’re in a divorce or you’re post-divorce,” said Frank. “You really have access to lots of resources online depending on what you’re looking for.”
We can group these resources into two broad categories: information gathering which is likely to be more fact-based, such as ‘Is an inheritance a martial asset in Colorado?’ or ‘What sort of parenting time works well for a three-year-old?’ or emotional support which would encompass help for anything you’re feeling.
Who Is Going Online?
In terms of age groups, I suspect that this mirrors the demographics of people experiencing divorce. For example, most of the visitors to my blog are in the 35- 44 age group, followed by 25- 34 year olds and then 45-54 year-olds.
Frank shared that for Divorce Force, about 45 percent of visitors are men and 55 percent are female. Frank feels this is bucking the norm for websites like his, which typically skew to more female. For this blog, for 2017 so far, about 73 percent of my readers are female. Interestingly, for my podcast, almost 67 percent of listeners are male.
What I see as positive in this is that men are clearly going online for help and that’s reassuring since there’s a common notion that men are less comfortable seeking help than females.
One explanation for the number of male members on Divorce Force comes down to content. “Divorce Force is very gender neutral,” said Frank. “We don’t skew the content we provide or the services or products we put in front of a consumer.”
Stay Away From Facebook
I asked Frank if there were any online platforms that are best avoided during divorce and without hesitation he said Facebook. He says this is one of the first things any attorney will tell you. What this means is that you can keep your profile active but be extremely cautious about what you are posting and commenting on. Frank says there’s a high proportion of litigated divorces that cite Facebook somewhere in the proceeding papers.
“It’s a phenomenal place to do research on your spouse,” said Frank. “If you’re going to go to court claiming you can’t pay child support and you’re checking into restaurants and taking vacations when you should be with your children, that’s not going to go well.”
The key challenge with Facebook is that your identity is not concealed. Other social media platforms allow you to create a username other than your real name and this means you can post undercover but still you have to be cautious and super vigilant of privacy settings.
Protect Your Privacy
One of the problems with Facebook is that even if you join a closed group your identity is still public so you could end corresponding with your STBX in the group or with a mutual friend. This means choosing platforms where you can create your own username.
“Be cautious about your screen name,” said Frank. “Make sure it isn’t one that people would easily associate with who you are.”
Frank also recommends setting up a new email account and dedicating this account to all things related to your divorce. Consider where you checking your emails. The shared computer at home is probably not a good idea. Using a browser on your cell phone is safer.
“The great thing about the Internet is you can create a different persona and you can do all these different types of research but clear your browser history so your spouse doesn’t know what you are doing,” said Frank. “You just have to be smart.”
Frank also warns about how you’re storing your passwords and usernames. Keeping these on a piece of paper at home isn’t secure and even using the browser to store your passwords isn’t safe, if your computer automatically logs you into your browser.
Which Sites To Trust?
There are literally thousands of sites related to divorce and some of these could easily be considered fake, set up solely to generate advertising revenue. The key distinguishing factor, according to Frank, is whether the source of the information is trusted.
Frank’s own site, Divorce Force, vets the articles that are submitted for publication and not just anyone can post content. They’ll only accept material from people with proven expertise.
Communities and forums are different. In these places, when you ask a question, you’ll get real life feedback and that means most likely a diverse response. That can be very helpful because it will give you a range of possibilities but you have to understand that what you’re getting is opinion and relying on a particular response because it suits you, is likely not smart.
Is Online A Substitute For Legal Advice?
First, let’s define legal advice … Anyone can go online and read a particular statute, say how spousal support works in your state. The legal advice is how the law applies to your specific situation.
I’ve found that most people need some legal advice about a particular aspect of their divorce and personally, I think you won’t get a totally accurate picture if you limit yourself to online resources.
Frank agrees. “Many times, you need solid advice to lay the foundation of the divorce.”
At the same time, Frank believes that doing some online research will help you better manage your legal process and it could help you save money on legal fees. “I would not listen to my attorney 100 percent. There is so much information available online, take advantage of it.”
How much you can do yourself depends very much on your personal situation. There are people who can file for divorce completely on their own or others who may take advantage of online companies to help them create all the forms that are needed very inexpensively and at the other end of the scale, there are people who will use an attorney to handle everything.
“It comes down to a factor of money, time and the ability to represent yourself for the best possible outcome,” said Frank.
What About Forums And Groups?
Forums and groups are very helpful for ideas on how handle situations and getting input like this creates the opportunity for you and your STBX to create an agreement that will work for you and your family as opposed to some boilerplate agreement. If you can outline the agreement you want, then you can hire an attorney to draft the legal document but you’ll save on legal fees because you’ll have done the negotiations yourselves.
Frank sees the value of open forums as the real feedback and the ability to speak your mind but moderation is very important. Frank’s Divorce Force platform is moderated and they do monitor for postings that are defamatory or violate the code of ethics or privacy.
Given the wealth of information, knowledge and expertise available online, it would be foolish to ignore these resources. “Make sure the information is coming from trusted, reliable sources,” said Frank. “Look at your personal situation and pay attention to your digital footprint.”
My guest for this Conversation was Gregory Frank, co-founder of Divorce Force, one of the premier online communities committed to connecting and empowering those affected by divorce.
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