Facebook has Become a Leading Cause in Divorce Cases


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A recent study has found a correlation between relationship health and Facebook use that may cause more people to want to switch off the computer and smartphone in favor of spending more time paying attention to their spouses.

The Study

The study, published in the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, found that people who use Facebook more than once an hour are more likely to "experience Facebook–related conflict with their romantic partners.” That conflict could then lead to a breakup or divorce. The study, conducted by Russell Clayton, a doctoral student in the University of Missouri School of Journalism, and his colleagues at the University of Hawaii at Hilo and St. Mary's University in San Antonio, surveyed 205 Facebook users aged 18 to 82. Of those surveyed, 79 percent reported being in a romantic relationship. While previous studies had shown that the more a person uses social media sites like Facebook the more like they were to monitor their partners, Clayton's study was the first to look at actual break up rates.

Clayton hypothesized that more frequent social media use and monitoring of one's partner could lead to misunderstandings and feelings of jealousy. The study appears to have proved that hypothesis by noting a strong correlation between Facebook use and relationship stability. Clayton posited that, for most, the correlation probably stems from jealousy and arguments about past partners related to social media snooping. Of course, the study also found that social media makes it possible for users to reconnect with others, including past lovers, which could lead to emotional and physical cheating.

Clayton's study is not the first of its kind. In 2012 Divorce-Online UK surveyed British divorce lawyers to determine if there was an anecdotal connection between social media use and divorce. According to that survey, approximately one in three divorces resulted from social media-related disagreements. Similarly, a 2010 survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) found that four out of five lawyers used evidence derived from social networking sites in divorce cases, with Facebook leading the pack.

What Can You Do To Protect Yourself

The first thing to do is discuss the dangers of social media in a relationship setting with your partner. Try to agree to appropriate limits on use, avoid snooping on one another, and make sure that you spend more time interacting in person than monitoring what the rest of the world is doing on social media.

Of course, if it is already too late to prevent the inevitable, you can at least minimize some of the damage. Frequently, divorce and family law attorneys use postings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the many other social networking sites as evidence. For example, posts and photos depicting one partner's social life could come across to a judge as showing a disregard for responsibility, excessive drug or alcohol use, or other behavior that might impair that person's interests when it comes to negotiating alimony, child custody, or divisions of assets.

It should become a policy to censor yourself on social media. Think about your potential audience before posting anything, even in the happiest of times. If there are already things online that you would prefer not coming up in a court proceeding or job interview, you should take them down immediately. If someone else posts embarrassing photos or comments, simply delete, untag, or ask the acquaintance to kindly remove the offending post. Social sites have also created more tools to report content that you do not control, but which is about you or depicts you, and which you find unflattering or offensive.

Speak to an Attorney

Of course, the best course of action when facing a divorce or child custody dispute is to contact an attorney. In the modern world of social media, many divorce and family law attorneys have become experts at dealing with the fallout of social media in relationships. You can find a lawyer in your area that specializes in family law by visiting HG.org and using the attorney search feature.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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