The whole idea of Facebook and other social media websites is to bring folks together.
However, it seems with increasing frequency, social networking is serving to drive people apart – specifically, married couples.
According to a new British survey, Facebook has been linked to 33 percent of all divorces, which is an increase from a 2009 study indicating the networking site was central to 1-in-5 divorce filings. Another study, conducted in 2013 by researchers with the University of Missouri, found people who use the site excessively are more likely to experience conflict with their romantic partners, and that conflict can often lead to negative outcomes, such as break-up and divorce.
Authors of the latest research opine Facebook serves as a conduit for people who are connecting with exes or to meet new potential partners. It may simply be a source of suspicion, particularly if one spouse is overly-jealous.
Our Birmingham divorce attorneys don't lay the blame solely on evolving technology. Marriages were breaking up long before social media existed. The fact that Facebook is often noted in divorce filings is not so much a condemnation of the platform as simply indicative of the way we all currently communicate and connect.
Alabama is a no-fault divorce state, so that means whether your spouse is spending a greater amount of time online or involved in a virtual affair may not necessarily be relevant to the court in your filing. No-fault divorce means spouses aren't required to establish grounds for divorce, such as adultery, abandonment, alcoholism, abuse, etc. In fact, the vast majority of divorce cases in Alabama are granted on no-fault grounds.
Still, there are ways in which divorce lawyers might find the contents of a client's or soon-to-be-ex's social media account valuable.
For example, Alabama family courts allow for equitable distribution of marital property. Both spouses are required to report all relevant property. Not everyone does. But sometimes, there can be evidence in the form of wall posts or photographs that might indicate one party is not fully disclosing all relevant financial assets or debts. That could impact the court's decision regarding how much each party should receive.
Such evidence can also be valuable in child custody and support proceedings. Parents who post photographs of themselves behaving badly may have a difficult time proving to the court they are a fit parent with a stable home. Such posts can also indicate if a parent is fully adhering to the parenting plan. For example, courts can sometimes limit a child's contact with parent's new boyfriend or girlfriend, but posted photographs may show they aren't obeying that order.
It's worth noting that just because a person blocks or “unfriends” an ex does not mean the settings are private. For one thing, couples tend to have many mutual friends, and that can become a portal through which one can obtain information about the other. Beyond that, privacy settings are not nearly as tight as some people like to believe. Spouses may be unwittingly providing a ton of information to the other side about a variety of aspects relevant to a pending case.
Courts are increasingly broadening the circumstances under which such evidence is allowed to be introduced and considered. In some cases, judges will allow one side to engage in digital forensics, which can help uncover call logs, text messages and e-mails, calendar entries, videos and photos, pornography site visits, financial transfers and purchases and other seemingly private information.
So regardless of whether Facebook precipitated your split, it may ultimately help further your divorce case.
Facebook cited in a third of all divorce cases, Jan. 21, 2015, By Cheryl K. Chumley, The Washington Times