SOCIAL networking sites are the next tool to be used in divorce proceedings according to leading Northwest lawyer, Antonia Love.

Currently over 13.7 million people regularly use social networking sites in the UK such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo to make new friends, catch up with existing ones and find old ones.

However, as was found with websites such as Friends Reunited, some platonic friendships that are formed on these sites are evolving into more romantic relationships and it is thought that the first ‘Facebook divorce’ is not far away.

Antonia comments: “People who use social networking websites to send flirtatious emails to people who are not their partners are often lulled into a false sense of security that they are doing nothing wrong because correspondence is electronic and therefore isn’t ‘real life’.  However, even if a physical relationship doesn’t occur, electronic communications such as flirtatious emails and conversations can be used in divorce proceedings with the aggrieved party, understandably, citing unreasonable behaviour.”

In the US a new survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers has found that there has been an 88 per cent increase in the number of divorce cases using electronic data as evidence. Several companies have capitalised on this and have developed software specially to spy on spouses’ computer use. It is reported that these companies already have a number of customers in the UK.

In the small print of most of the biggest social networking sites it states that, in some cases, if legal standards are met user information can be passed on to law enforcement agencies and legal teams involved in civil disputes, divorces and employment actions.

Antonia continues: “Therefore, conversations that you believed to be harmless, as your partner was never going to see them, can become very harmful to you if brought up in the divorce court.  It is probable that electronic evidence will not lead to a huge rise in divorce figures but it may certainly make a lawyer’s job easier as people are a lot less careful about what they write in emails than what they write down on paper.”

In a recent case involving social networking sites, a man from Newport Pagnell, who had been ordered by magistrates not to contact his estranged wife, was jailed for 10 days when he joined Facebook and an automatic ‘friend request’ was sent to everyone on his email contact list, including his ex-wife.

For help and advice, speak with a Divorce Lawyer at Farleys Solicitors LLP now, please call 0845 287 0939 or contact us by e-mail.