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Social media influence on divorce cases on the rise

SOCIAL media is becoming a major factor in divorce and family law cases, according to experts from leading law firm Ward Hadaway.

The explosion in popularity of Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites has been matched with a rise in the number of couples citing social media as a factor in their relationship break-ups, family lawyers at the Top 100 UK law firm have found.

Jonathan Flower, Partner and Head of the Family and Matrimonial team at Ward Hadaway, says that the ability to contact old flames or cultivate new relationships which online networking allows has contributed to relationship problems for a growing number of couples.

Jonathan said: “Infidelity and relationship breakdown has been around for much longer than the internet has so it would be inaccurate to say that the likes of Facebook and Twitter are necessarily ‘causing’ relationships to fall apart.

“However, it is a fact that as more and more people use social media, so the temptation for them to ‘live other lives’ and cultivate other relationships that their partners do not know about grows.

“At Ward Hadaway, our divorce solicitors have certainly seen a rise in the number of cases where the use of Twitter and Facebook by one or both partners has been a contributory factor to relationship breakdown.

“Whether these problems would have occurred without the existence of social media is difficult to tell, but it is hard to ignore the growing body of evidence on the subject and what we have seen as family lawyers here at Ward Hadaway.”

A survey last year found that more than a third of divorce filings in the UK contained the word ‘Facebook’, while in the US, over 80% of divorce lawyers say they have seen a rise in the number of cases involving social networking.

One in five people admit they use Facebook for flirting, while the phenomenon has become so widespread that there are even online websites dedicated to exposing the practice of cheating via Facebook.

Jonathan Flower said: “It is an unfortunate fact that the ease of access offered by social networking and the popularity of sites like Facebook can, in some cases, prove to be a temptation for people in a relationship to look elsewhere.

“The other key feature we have seen about social networking sites is that as people use them more and more, they become less circumspect about revealing what would normally be regarded as highly personal information.

“Lulled into a false sense of security about the reality of posting information on publicly accessible sites like Facebook and Twitter, they can open up about themselves to quite a startling extent.

“This also has the potential to cause relationship issues, as well as exposing some unfortunate ‘home truths’ about partners.

“There have been a number of cases where someone has found out that their partner is looking elsewhere by finding a change to their Status Update on Facebook.

“In other cases, people already involved in divorce or other family law proceedings have revealed information about themselves via social media that has gone on to have a major impact on the course of those proceedings.

“The golden rule for anyone in a relationship who uses social media is to think carefully about what you are doing and what you are posting before you do it. You never know who might be watching or where something could be leading.”

Ward Hadaway’s Family and Matrimonial team is one of the largest dedicated teams in the North East, offering a full service on all aspects of Family and Matrimonial Law.

The team was acclaimed as “first class” by independent legal guide Legal 500 in its 2012 survey of the UK legal profession with its “strong offering in matrimonial matters” receiving particular praise while the Chambers & Partners 2013 survey of UK law firms noted that Ward Hadaway offers “a truly cross-disciplinary service to clients” on divorces and matrimonial issues.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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