Solicitor warns facebook may be fuelling divorce cases

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson

A MILTON Keynes-based family law specialist says the social networking website facebook is cited in the majority of divorce petition or case notes she handles.

Caroline Watson, pictured, of Russell Jones & Walker, in Davy Avenue, Knowlhill, disputes industry estimates that 20 per cent of all divorce cases reference facebook.

Mrs Watson said: “I’m seeing it cited in nearly every divorce petition or set of case notes I handle. Even when divorce proceedings are issued, facebook continues to be involved.”

In some cases, Mrs Watson explained, husband and wife although involved in a relatively bitter divorce, inexplicably remain facebook friends.

“Their marriage is, to all intents and purposes, over yet the divorcing couple can still see each others’ every move. It’s as though they don’t mind being spied on as long as they can do so themselves.”

Even where the couple is not friends but their privacy settings are low and they have public profiles, this is a useful tool for both the aggrieved spouse and for the divorce solicitor themselves.

The social networking site has provided a windfall of evidence for lawyers.

“Flirtatious emails and other saucy messages sent via the sites can be used as evidence of unreasonable behaviour, legitimate grounds for divorce,” said Mrs Watson.

There have been numerous cases where social website evidence has been considered by a judge when making crucial custody or contact decisions.

Mrs Watson said: “If parents disagree on custody arrangements, for example, then the other parent will comb through facebook looking for any potentially disparaging information. If they can turn up photographs of the other parent in a compromising position, or lots of different pictures of them obviously drunk on a number of separate occasions, even if it’s years earlier, they could be presented as evidence that the child’s best interests would best be served by limiting contact with that ‘unfit’ parent.”

And, she added, certain spouses who plead poverty within financial proceedings can have a difficult time explaining how they managed to afford to go on a lavish holiday, as evidenced by their tagged photos.

Profile pages and photo albums often therefore assist building up a case, as do status updates and wall comments where contradictions are made to statements made within divorce proceedings.