Facebook has been in the new again - If your name happens to be Kate Middleton, you might have difficulty accessing your account today (unless you actually are the soon-to-be Princess). But social networking can cause problems even if you don’t share a famous name. According to a group of English family lawyers, use of Facebook is increasingly being blamed for relationship breakdowns, with some going so far as to say that almost every divorce they deal with now involves the site.
Here at Morton Fraser we have had similar experience.
For some, that means dealing with the acrimonious aftermath of being caught posting flirtatiously on someone else’s “Wall”. Communicating online-only with a virtual friend might not feel like infidelity – and it certainly isn’t adultery in Scots law - but many have found that it fell within their partner’s definition of that term, if not their own. Remember former President Jimmy Carter’s definition of “adultery” which involved a fertile imagination but no physical contact?
If the relationship has already broken down, Facebook has the potential to make the process of separation or divorce more difficult. If one party is pleading poverty while posting photos of a Caribbean cruise - or pictures of a new partner appear – it’s easy to see how this might affect negotiations. Even if the couple themselves aren’t on Facebook, their children or step-children may use it to stay in touch, so information about new lives can “leak” unintentionally.
Facebook itself argues that using the site is no different from phoning or emailing. But not every call or e-mail to your ex ends up being viewed by any of the 500 million currently-active users of the site. So it’s always worth checking your Facebook privacy settings – it may be that more people are seeing your postings than you think.
Ultimately, however, it may be that during relationship breakdown, it’s simply better to stay offline for a while – just like the Kate Middleton’s.