Divorce and Facebook

The following is a guest post regarding divorce and social networks such as Facebook. For specialist advice from divorce lawyers in Edinburgh, see http://www.familylawedinburgh.co.uk/.

Whilst the Internet and social media are becoming useful tool for dating and relationships (it is estimated that 17% of recently married couples met online) there is a dark side to the Internet’s impact on relationships and it is called Facebook. Research has shown that the world’s largest social media website was implicated in a third of last year’s divorce filings. In fact Facebook has such a stronghold over relationships in general that it is not uncommon for one half of a couple to find out that the relationship is over via Facebook, usually by the other half changing his or her relationship status.

Whilst blaming Facebook for divorce automatically gives the impression of infidelity, this is not necessarily the case. Many of those who filed for divorce are not getting divorced because of Facebook, it may simply be the case that Facebook is sighted in a divorce filing to show the bad behaviour of a spouse for example as evidence of rude or offensive messages. What is certain though is that Facebook and social media as a whole are playing a bigger role in divorce proceedings, either as a cause or as a form of evidence.

Generally speaking there are five grounds for divorce: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion without consent for more than two years, desertion with consent for more than two years and separation for more than five years. When looking at these grounds it is easy to see how Facebook could be responsible for at least two of the grounds: adultery and unreasonable behaviour.

Why is this so? There are a number of hypotheses and the simplest reason is that Facebook makes communication so easy. For example, what could start out as an innocent conversation with an ex could lead to something not so innocent and this ties in nicely with another reason – Facebook makes it easier to give in to temptation. Whilst it may not seem fair to blame Facebook for temptation, particularly as it does not force you to do anything, it does nevertheless make it easier to do things you know you should not be doing.

Another reason is that Facebook can change people. The ability to connect and see information so effortlessly can make ordinary people paranoid and this in turn leads to many relationship problems. The problem with Facebook and in fact most social media is that what is said and done is often just a snapshot and taken out of contexts something quite innocent can be taken completely the wrong way.  Arguably the most common reason is that Facebook leaves a trail. Once something is said or done on Facebook there is an ever present risk of it being placed in the public domain.

In fact Facebook has become such a big problem for relationships that it is not uncommon for couples to deactivate their Facebook accounts to save their relationships. When you really think about it, what may seem like a drastic step could actually be quite sensible and could in fact save many a relationship.

Even if the relationship cannot be saved, Facebook can help with other matters such as maintenance and child custody. Any behaviour on Facebook could be used against one spouse to show what their behaviour in general is like which may be used to determine parenting skills or whether the lifestyle of the spouse is (or is not) suitable for children.

If you are considering divorce proceedings because of something you have seen on Facebook (or otherwise) then you should speak to a divorce solicitor who can advise you on the legitimate grounds for divorce. Divorce can be both emotionally and financially taxing and can result in a number of ancillary issues and therefore it is important to ensure that you appoint an experienced divorce solicitor to represent you.

Once piece of advice any divorce lawyer is almost certain to give you is to refrain from messaging your ex partner or saying anything about them on Facebook during divorce proceedings. Whilst people will be used to sharing their feelings online, once in the public domain this information cannot be recalled. This on its own could make the simplest and most amicable of divorces into the most complicated, contentious and expensive.

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