Navigating Divorce in a World Dominated by Digital Communication

by | Jun 20, 2017

Social media outlets such as Facebook and Skype are very common ways for those who are far apart to keep in touch or feel close. However, utilizing these platforms during or after a divorce can be tricky for families to navigate, and there can be positives as well as many downsides to consider. King’s University College professor Rachel Birnbaum discusses potential issues with this new way of communicating.

While divorce or separation can be hard on children – particularly when one parent lives far away – a King’s University College professor is investigating the pros and cons of using technology, such as Skype or Facebook, when communicating with each other.

“Online technology plays a really big role in the way we communicate today. But for separated and divorced families we don’t really know much about what the impact is,” said Rachel Birnbaum, cross-appointed to Childhood Studies & Social Institutions and Social Work at King’s. “I began to notice that mediators, lawyers and health professionals were starting to use this technology in their parenting plans for separated families.

“I was curious. While it’s a great resource, I wanted to understand the issues around safety, confidentiality, about situations where  have difficulties communicating with one another or  are not available at the prescribed time. There are a lot of potential issues.”

Birnbaum has more than 20 years of clinical practice experience working with families and children of separation and/or divorce – specifically focused on high-conflict families.

Including colleagues in Law, Medicine, Psychology and Social Work, she has created an online survey to explore the experiences of lawyers and mental-health professionals with online technology during separation and divorce. Those findings will, in turn, benefit those professions in regards to what is helpful about the technology, and what isn’t, in order to properly structure mediation between families around visitation and contact.

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