Facebook has become the largest social networking site on the internet. There are other sites, but as this article is being written, Facebook is the king. In my family law practice, I see a substantial impact of Facebook and similar sites on divorce. As attorneys, we look to Facebook as a source of information as well as a cause for concern. I will advise my clients not to post messages on Facebook, or photos on Facebook, that could be if not compromising, at least showing a lack of discretion. I have had cases where one of the parties has posted Facebook pictures of boyfriends or girlfriends, even in the middle of a divorce. Some of these pictures will refer to an uncle or an aunt, who is actually a boyfriend or girlfriend, in pictures with the minor children. This is clearly something that can be used in a divorce, especially if custody is an issue. Indiscreet messages to someone who is more than just a friend, can also come to haunt someone in a divorce. In using Facebook, everyone should be cautioned, especially if there is a situation where there can be marital strife or divorce.
Other issues involving the internet and divorce are important to mention as well. I have had numerous cases where one spouse or the other is addicted to gambling on line. This can cause a tremendous impact on the marriage, especially if there are substantial sums of money being lost. E-trading can be an issue especially, again, if money is being lost on the internet. I have had clients who have become addicted to shopping on line, which can be a major issue especially if this impacts upon the assets that are being divided in a divorce. Pornography can be a major issue, as can the use of Craig’s List or other internet sites, including Facebook, to meet people, which can lead someone to go astray, and help lead to the breakup of a marriage.
Another problem is that web sites can feed off of, and add to deviant behavior. Examples are the fact that people who have a predilection for child pornography or other deviant behavior such as pedophiles, will be attracted to these sites. They will then be interchanging e-mails and other information with people of similar minds, which can thus reinforce and seem acceptable, this deviant and often illegal behavior.
Human beings have quirks. They have their addictions. But the impact of the internet in general is that forbidden fruit is so much more readily available, and thus it has a tremendous impact on marriage and divorce. It also has an impact on the way attorneys will handle cases with regard to discovery issues, and issues involving fault or the breakup of a marriage. It is something that everyone should think about, especially where too often people will keyboard something in, push the send button, and think about it later. What are your thoughts?
HENRY S. GORNBEIN
Attorney at Law
40900 Woodward Avenue, Ste. 111
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304-5116