Edinburgh family law firm Gibson Kerr says that social media channels such as facebook, twitter, bebo and myspace are becoming increasingly prevalent in divorce cases, as more people are using them to discover details about their partners’ infidelity.
The trend is rising so much that some divorce firms in England believe that as many as one in five divorce cases have been influenced by social networking sites – often when people discover that their partner has used them to rekindle old romances or start a new affair.
Fiona Rasmusen, partner at Gibson Kerr, said that the rising popularity of social networking sites meant that the trend was now starting to be witnessed in Scotland. She explained: “Some companies south of the border are suggesting that as many as one in five of the divorce enquiries they receive are caused by social networking sites. It’s been a big trend in the United States and, more recently, in England – but we are now starting to see it happening in Scotland.
“Due to the open, social nature of the internet, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep any personal information secret. In the past, suspicious partners would have had rely on their own powers of deduction or to hire a private investigator to check if their spouse was having an affair – but nowadays they can find out simply by checking their partner’s social networking accounts.
“We’ve seen cases where people have found out information about their partner by looking at their profile on facebook or bebo, and have decided that it is serious enough grounds for them to start enquiring about divorce proceedings. Sometimes they discover that their partner is having an affair, or that they are sending sexually suggestive messages to someone that they shouldn’t, and it prompts them to seek legal advice.
“With sites such as twitter and MSM becoming more and more popular – and with more people accessing social networking sites through their mobile phones – it’s likely that this trend will continue across Scotland for the foreseeable future.”
Facebook has more than 350 million users worldwide and other social networking sites boast similar-sized member lists. The websites offer platforms for users to easily connect with each other, and this can lead to new friendships and online relationships forming – often without the knowledge of the users’ “real life” partners.
Once relationships have been developed online, some social network users may be tempted to cheat on their spouses and this can lead to divorce proceedings if their partner finds out about their infidelity. However, there are also cases where it is the social network user themselves that considers leaving their marriage for a new or old flame that they discover online – and they are the ones who will seek advice about how to set about getting a divorce.
Fiona recommends that anyone who is considering divorce proceedings should contact their solicitor for advice. She adds that by being able to speak with a solicitor without delay, unhappy partners could receive constructive help and advice that can perhaps diffuse a difficult situation.