The number of divorces occurring because of Facebook and other social networking sites has been on the rise since these sites have become increasingly popular, research claims. These sites are being utilized more and more by unhappy individuals to seek out and have an affair and cheat on their partner.
Facebook is now being cited in almost one in five of online divorce petitions, attorneys have claimed.
People will post just about anything on social networking sites. And the information can be used against them.
The social networking site, which connects old friends and allows users to make new ones online, is being blamed for an increasing number of marital breakdowns.
Divorce lawyers claim the explosion in the popularity of websites such as Facebook and Bebo is tempting to people to cheat on their partners. Suspicious spouses have also used the websites to find evidence of flirting and even affairs which have led to divorce.
One law firm, which specialises in divorce, claimed almost one in five petitions they processed cited Facebook.
An American insurance company, in defending its refusal to pay out a claim, is seeking to call in evidence personal online postings, including the contents of any MySpace or Facebook pages the litigants may have, to see if their eating disorders might have “emotional causes”. And the case is far from a lone one. Suddenly, those saucy pictures and intimate confessions on social networking sites can be taken down and used in evidence against you in ways never dreamed of.
Flirty emails and messages found on Facebook pages are increasingly being cited as evidence of unreasonable behaviour. Computer firms have even cashed in by developing software allowing suspicious spouses to electronically spy on someone’s online activities.
One 35-year-old woman even discovered her husband was divorcing her via Facebook. Conference organiser Emma Brady was distraught to read that her marriage was over when he updated his status on the site to read: “Neil Brady has ended his marriage to Emma Brady.”
Last year a 28-year-old woman ended her marriage after discovering her husband had been having a virtual affair with someone in cyberspace he had never met. Amy Taylor 28, split from David Pollard after discovering he was sleeping with an escort in the game Second Life, a virtual world where people reinvent themselves.
Around 14 million Britons are believed to regularly use social networking sites to communicate with old friends or make new ones. The popularity of the Friends Reunited website several years ago was also blamed for a surge in divorces as bored husbands and wives used it to contact old flames and first loves.
The UK’s divorce rate has fallen in recent years, but two in five marriages are still failing according the latest statistics. Mr Keenan believes that the general divorce rate will rocket in 2010 with the recession taking the blame.
In the US, a sex assault victim seeking compensation faces the prospect of her MySpace and Facebook pages being produced in court. In Texas, a driver whose car was involved in a fatal accident found his MySpace postings (“I’m not an alcoholic, I’m a drunkaholic”) part of the prosecution’s case.
According to an article in USA research by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers conveys that, over the last five years, 81% of divorce lawyers have either utilized or encountered evidence from social networking sites. Facebook is the most cited, appearing in 66% of cases using subpoenaed Internet evidence.
Now, the problem here is not the sites themselves. Marriages break up for the most ancient of reasons, power struggles, lack of kindness, loss of love, hurt, money problems, infidelity and the like. The Internet doesn’t cause marital problems (people do) but it can make matters worse.
Infidelity is without doubt, easier because of the sheer access to so many potential lovers. Gambling takes on new forms (like a poker addiction) found in one’s living room computer. But anonymity is not what one likes to think, because the Internet also makes it easier for the offending spouse to get caught.
The double life you try to lead on the Internet might just come back to haunt you. Lawyers know how to find information you’ve posted on social networking sites that you thought had been kept hidden. Sage advice: Like driving a car, it is a good idea to know about the power of technology before using it and finding yourself in trouble.
Bertus Preller is a Divorce and Family Law Attorney in Cape Town and has more than 20 years experience in law and 13 years as a practising attorney. He specializes in Family law and Divorce Law at Abrahams and Gross Attorneys Inc. in Cape Town. Bertus is also the Family Law expert on Health24.com and on the expert panel of Law24.com and has written a number of articles in local newspapers on Family Law issues in South Africa. His areas of expertise are Divorce Law, Family Law, Divorce Mediation, Custody (care and contact) of children, same sex marriages, unmarried fathers rights, domestic violence matters and international divorce law.