Information found on popular social networking sites has given divorce lawyers new tools in their divorce toolkits. Find out how Facebook and other sites are changing the legal landscape in divorce and child custody cases, and what you can do to protect yourself in the event of a Facebook divorce.
The term "Facebook divorce" refers to the increasing number of marital breakdowns that have occurred as a result of information found or discovered on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. While social networking sites allow users to connect with old and new friends, they also create circumstances that may lead to a divorce or child custody battle. Moreover, social networking sites allow divorce lawyers to discover information they might not otherwise find using traditional methods of "discovery" (the process used to gather supporting facts and information in a case.)
In the recent past, the number of divorce lawyers who use Facebook and other social networking sites to uncover potentially damning evidence has grown. According to a 2010 survey by the American Association of Matrimony Lawyers (AAML), two-thirds of American lawyers say Facebook is the primary source of evidence used in divorce cases.
While there are no specific laws concerning the use of Facebook in divorce proceedings, the existing rules of evidence support the use of alternate forms of media to gather evidence, and this may include information found on social networking sites (via email, cell phone, or computer data retrieval, for example.)
What May Be Found on Facebook
There are several bits of divorce-related evidence that can be found on Facebook. Generally, a person's overall history and whereabouts are just a mouse click away from public eyes - despite Facebook's privacy settings (which are not always reliable.)
Furthermore, people often mistakenly believe that their actions online do not carry the same consequences as real-life events. For example, they may believe that online flirting is not the same as flirting in a bar. The reality, however, proves that what a person says or does online can have serious repercussions in a divorce or child custody case.
Below are examples of damning evidence that may be found on social networking sites, which may potentially be used against you in a "Facebook divorce" situation.
Facebook and Divorce: Legal Issues
Legal issues concerning the use of Facebook data in divorce proceedings varies. For instance, adultery is still grounds for divorce in some states and is defined in state laws as "the voluntary sexual intercourse of a married person with a person other than the offender's spouse." In most adultery cases, direct proof is not required - based on the mere nature of secretive relationships. Adultery in a Facebook divorce situation, however, might be inferred through photos and information posted on Facebook.
Note that while evidence-worthy photos and information exchanged on Facebook on their own may not be grounds for divorce, but information combined with other forms of proof may create an undesirable outcome.
Tips for Facebook Users Facing a Divorce
Is Facebook a Factor in Your Divorce? Make Sure You Get Professional Legal Help
Even the most amicable divorce can be a profoundly stressful experience -- especially in this age of social media and the unenviable "Facebook divorce." A knowledgeable divorce attorney can safely guide you through the process to ensure your financial security and peace of mind.