“FRAPED!” – Is it a grounds for divorce?

“Fraped”. Adj. the act of posting on someone else’s ‘Facebook’ page, often as a result of leaving your profile open or poor password protection

It’s been going on for ever. Childhood sweethearts reunited after many years apart rekindle an old relationship and cause pain and upset to their current partners, possibly leading to a separation or divorce. In the late 1990’s this issue became more prevalent in divorce cases with the advent of early social networking sites such as “Friends Reunited”. Dwarfed now by Twitter and Facebook, the involvement of social networking has been cited increasingly in divorce cases. Some recent surveys in US and UK show that Facebook is now referred to in some way in between a quarter and a third of cases.

Keep it private

It isn’t always old flames that cause problems on Facebook. Flirting with new friends and strangers on your laptop or handheld can cause ructions in relationships especially if your activity is not as private as you thought it might be. Failing to log out of your profile leaves it open for snooping and for others to post on your behalf. Known as “fraping”, this activity can be innocent and fun or dangerous and offensive.  Many examples of exposing the misdemeanours of others exist online. These are normally easy to spot but beware the imposter who can easily post on your behalf.

The exposure of a partners fling or unreasonable behaviour – proper grounds for divorce – are increasingly taking place online. This practice is also rife on twitter where revelations involving celebrities activities have been the subject of debate for some time.

But my password is safe, isn’t it?

Taking good care of protecting your profile is one thing. But how safe is the information that you store? A judge in America recently ordered that a divorcing couple hand over their facebook passwords to each other’s lawyers as it was believed that the profiles contained information that was essential to the case. The injunction included an obligation on the spouses not to post on their former partners page. Despite contravening facebook’s own privacy policy, this sets an interesting precedent adding a whole new dimension to evidence gathering in divorce cases.

Don’t want to get caught. Don’t do it!

Controlling the flow of information is almost impossible in the instant messaging, micro blogging, always connected world that we now inhabit. The only way to stop your facebook page from being used against you in a divorce court is not to do it in the first place. If you don’t want to get caught with your trousers down don’t post it on your facebook page.

If you’re going to share any information on your facebook page, please do share this!

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.

Facebook and Divorce – Think before you post it

Using Facebook during a divorce carries a risk that you will post information that can be used against you during the proceedings.

If you are in the middle of a divorce, or are seriously considering filing for one, you should take a few moments to reflect on your relationship with some of your friends. Particularly your relationship with Facebook, as it may not prove to be much of a friend during your divorce.

For many people, Facebook and other types of social media, such as Twitter, are an essential part of communicating with your friends and family. You post important information and pictures, view posts from your friends, and use it as a means of tying together that network of competing interests and friends, many you may never have even seen since school

Permanent record

But you also do something else. You create a permanent record of your life in a timeline that can be seen by all. Unlike a text or an e-mail that can be deleted after the event, a facebook or Twitter post is there to stay and things said in the heat of the moment could come back to haunt you.

The immediacy of social media produces an unedited version of everything.

Think before you post.

Only think of it this way, “Anything you post on Facebook can and will be used against you in a divorce court.” A stupid post or tweet, made when you are upset, takes on a life of its own, and once the genie is out of the bottle, you may never be able to get it back in.

Something as innocent as pictures from a holiday or fancy dinner with your new “friend” could later be used to damage your credibility when it comes to issues of maintenance, child residence or the division of marital property. How many times have people been caught out saying they are broke, only to find they have posted pictures of themselves on a 5 star Caribbean beach holiday a few weeks before a final hearing. Evidence like that is going to go down a treat with a Judge, and it won’t be in your favour.

Think before you post

If you feel you must maintain your social media presence during a divorce, take a moment before you post to consider how it would look projected on a cinema screen for all and sundry to see and imagine the impression a casual viewer would get , before you press the submit button.

A recent survey in 2009 by Texas based divorce website Divorce-Online found that as many as 1 in 4 of petitions flowing through their systems had mentioned the word Facebook, highlighting, perhaps the ubiquitous nature of the platform to interject itself in our ever day lives.

Mark Keenan writes on subjects such as divorce and the effects of Social media