Facebook and Divorce
In addition to its effect on many other parts of our daily lives, Facebook now appears to be taking over even our divorces. Over 30 percent of divorce pleadings now contain the word “Facebook.” What’s going on here? Are we so attached to Facebook that we can’t imagine completing a task without it? (I recently saw an online legal question-and-answer session in which a woman asked whether she could serve her husband
with divorce papers via Facebook. The answer, should you be wondering, is no.) Or, is our increased use of social media somehow causing divorce?
This is a plausible explanation. Social media allows us to effectively spend time away from our spouses even while being physically in the same place as them. It also allows either spouse to connect with old friends, including former boyfriends or girlfriends, which could in turn pull the spouse away from the marriage. This seems to make sense.
On the other hand, the many mentions of Facebook in contemporary divorce pleadings could represent a mere byproduct of social media’s existence, not evidence that social media is the cause of the divorce. Think back to the 1960s—if one spouse cheated on the other or simply did something the other spouse didn’t approve of, the only way the other spouse could have found out about it was through the gradual spread of a rumor (or lipstick on the shirt collar) which may or may not have eventually conveyed the news. Now, a spouse has instant access to much more of the other spouse’s conduct. So, actions that might not have resulted in divorce in 1960 may be more likely to result in divorce today.
Facebook & Minnesota Divorce Laws
Whichever the correct answer, be aware that what you’re posting online could make it into court in your divorce proceeding. Minnesota is a no-fault divorce state, which means that neither spouse needs to prove the other spouse did something wrong in order to obtain a divorce. Courts also won’t consider marital misconduct in deciding how much marital property to award to each spouse in a divorce. Thus, Facebook posts may not be relevant in Minnesota to determine whose “fault” the divorce is. They can be used, however, as evidence of things like income, which can impact the court’s award of child support or spousal maintenance.
This means that posting pictures of you pointing a gun in your face and licking the barrel (true story) or a picture of your 4 year old son “pretending” to drink beer (another true story) will make it back to the Family Law Judge which means that you’ll have some explaining to do.
The bottom line? Facebook might not be the cause of your divorce, but it also might be more involved in your divorce than you’d imagine.
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