One of the biggest mistakes parents make while going through a divorce

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For millions of people across Canada and around the world, today was the first day back to “real life” after weeks of holiday celebrations.

Interestingly, family lawyers have also noticed that the first Monday of the new year brings with it a surge of divorce inquiries — both in Google searches and in calls directly to divorce lawyers.

The day has even earned the nickname “divorce day,” and the month of January has come to be known as “divorce month.”

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The stress of the holidays could be causing the increase, according to experts.

It’s a common time for couples to realize the cracks in an already strained relationship, said Jacinta Gallant, a collaborative lawyer and mediator in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

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“Many couples who were experiencing difficult before the holidays might go through [with the celebrations] just to get through the season for the sake of the children and then wait until January to consult with someone about separation,” Gallant said.
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“We also find this spike in the spring, when people are thinking about rebirth.”

Regardless of when you file for divorce, Barry Nussbaum, a senior lawyer at Nussbaum Family Law in Toronto, says it’s imperative to avoid posting on social media if there are kids involved.

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Nussbaum says if you’re fighting for custody of your children, how you use social media and the way you present yourself online can affect what happens.

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“The internet is a powerful tool that can help in the course of a divorce, but it can also drastically interfere with the process,” he said.

Name-calling and posting damaging or hurtful comments about your spouse can be “a nail in the coffin in obtaining joint custody,” Nussbaum emphasized.

“The court is a creature of the ‘paper’ trail, and once it’s out there, you won’t be able to get it back, which could negatively impact your case.”

Using social media to “air your dirty laundry” can quickly turn a healthy separation sour.

“I worked with one client who learned on Facebook that his wife was leaving him,” Gallant said.

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If you’re in a custody battle with your spouse, the things you share online can be used as evidence against you.

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“Someone’s behaviour [online and elsewhere] becomes relevant if it affects their ability to be a good parent,” said Gallant.

Here, some dos and don’ts for using social media during custody proceedings.

Think of your kids before you post

“The number one social media mistake people going through a divorce make is saying negative things about their spouse online,” said Nussbaum.

“Don’t write anything negative about your spouse and children or discuss your personal divorce online. A judge can form a poor impression of you for doing so, which can affect your case.”

Whatever you put online will be accessible by your children, which could have a lifelong impact on your relationship with them.

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“Your children will have access to anything you post online, which will only hurt them in general,” he said. “The court will recognize that, question your judgment and can look poorly on you as a result.”

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Gallant also worries about the impact of negative social media sharing can have on the children involved.

“Even with the best intentions, your post about the decision to separate might find its way into your child’s feed,” she said.

“Research says [remaining] calm, peaceful and demonstrating respect is going to be the best way for kids to [make it through] the process.”

Apply the same rules to all tech

“Beyond the internet, couples going through a divorce should use caution when using any piece of technology, from computers to texts and emails, as the same rules apply,” said Nussbaum.

Anything placed in writing can be used against you. The same goes for photos posted online or circulated via text or email.

“If you don’t post anything, it can’t be used against you,” he said.

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Making it easier for your kids

The key is maintaining a “loving and supportive dynamic” for your children, Lauren Millman of Lauren Millman Counselling and Psychological Services previously told Global News.

“Parents are often too nervous or scared to engage in these conversations with their children, but there is so much value in doing so, as it sets a path for better-adjusted children and a more supportive and loving dynamic,” she said.

“I caution, don’t lose sight of maintaining a loving and supportive dynamic for your children.”

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Despite what’s going on in the household, remind your children how much you love and support them.

“[It] will lead to a more successful parting of the ways and potentially quicker and more successful adjustments for the children and teens.”

Finally, don’t relinquish the value of time and space to allow your children, and you, to process, she said.

“There is great value and fortitude in time and space, and in being patient and not taking their outward, reactionary and often terse or angry behaviour to heart.”

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— With files from Global News’ Arti Patel

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