Family Law in the Facebook Generation

February 10, 2015

As social media use becomes increasingly prevalent in all aspects of our lives, both privately and in business, it is inevitable that it is also now commonly referenced in Court.

Statistics in the UK and US vary, but all suggest that the likes of Facebook and Twitter are now commonly referred to in divorce proceedings. Statistics reported by the Daily Mail in 2011 stated that Facebook was mentioned in over a third of all divorce proceedings, with this number increasing from 1 in 5 cases the previous year. This upward trend has continued dramatically with various anecdotal comments suggesting this figure is now as high as 80 per cent in both the UK and US.

Social media for many of us is a tool of fun and useful for catching up with acquaintances; sorry, ‘friends’ or ‘followers’. However, social media usage can create a permanent digital record of interactions, opinions and behaviour and everyone should be aware of the potential implications.

Reasons for social media, particularly Facebook, being cited in divorce proceedings can be for a range of reasons. These include citing infidelity , suggesting unreasonable behaviour or highlighting personal problems. For example, it has been known for Facebook posts referring to nights out being used as evidence when suggesting a partner has a drinking problem or such like.

Not only is social media being used as evidence bringing divorce proceedings but also during the settlement phase of a case, with matters such as child care and finance also increasingly utilising social media as evidence.

As social media continues to be a central part of people’s everyday lives, we should all be wary about what we post and discuss in a public forum – you never know when that seemingly innocuous post could be used against you.

Danny Hudson is a Partner and matrimonial solicitor at Watsons Solicitors.

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