Facebook, Other Social Networking Sites Linked to Divorce
What would you do if the first time you heard your spouse wanted a divorce was when you read about it on Facebook? Would you file for divorce if you learned that your partner was cheating on you by having inappropriate sexual chats with other people on Facebook or other social networking sites?
The immense popularity of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, and other social networking sites has had consequences that few people may have thought about when these Internet websites first hit cyberspace. One is the virtually unlimited possibilities it presents to seek and connect with other people for the purpose of having an affair; another is the opportunities it presents for divorce attorneys to use any evidence they find on such social networking sites to settle a case for their clients.
Lee Rosen, a divorce attorney in Raleigh, NC, often finds evidence on Facebook, he noted in a Lawyers USA article. He said “most cases where there is evidence of adultery quickly settle,” which can occur when the straying spouse posts incriminating information or photos on her or his social network page. Melissa Brown, a Charleston, SC, domestic relations attorney, was quoted in the same article as saying, “Divorce lawyers should give a warning to all of their clients about the dangers of social networking during a divorce action.”
Some individuals should close down their sites, especially if they contain any incriminating photos or information, such as photos of themselves with a girlfriend or boyfriend or using drugs. Rosen noted that some people who use Facebook don’t heed the privacy settings and end up posting wall messages that go public and could be incriminating.
A report in the December 21, 2009, Telegraph notes that Facebook and other social networking sites are being blamed for a rising number of divorces. One law firm, which specializes in divorce, claimed that nearly 20 percent of the petitions they process have cited Facebook. The most common reason? Partners are having inappropriate sexual cyber chats with people they are not supposed to, a form of virtual infidelity. One woman in the United Kingdom learned that her husband was divorcing her via when she read the words on his Facebook page: “Neil Brady has ended his marriage to Emma Brady.”
The disclosure of highly personal information on Facebook and other social networking sites is bad enough when two adults decide they need to call it quits, but when there are children involved and child custody, the situation can get ugly and complicated.
Family law courts often issue restraining orders to prevent one parent from disparaging another to a child. In a recent Time magazine article, Stephen Mindel, a managing partner at Feiinberg, Mindel, Brandt & Klein in Los Angeles noted that if the disparaging remarks are on the Internet, the question becomes whether that speech can be blocked. “The First Amendment is going to come into conflict with the family-law courts,” he said.
Children often have no problem finding anything they want on the Internet, including humiliating information about their parents. Thus the best advice for people who are going through a divorce is to shut down their Facebook and other social networking sites and refrain from posting any personal information or opinions online. However, it seems that when people are confused and distraught, social networking is a way they vent their feelings. It may be cheaper than going to a therapist, but the consequences may be more costly than they ever imagined.
Lawyers USA, June 25, 2009
Telegraph, Dec. 21, 2009
Time magazine, June 22, 2009