Social media: A potential source of marital strife and divorce evidence

Social media use may contribute to marital unhappiness, and social media activity can also provide influential evidence during divorce proceedings.

For many people in Chicago, using social media provides a way to stay more connected and engaged with friends, family and significant others. Unfortunately, research suggests that this seemingly harmless activity may have negative effects on the relationships of married couples. Troublingly, in addition to potentially raising the risk of divorce, social media activity may have many adverse effects if couples do decide to separate.

A source of marital conflict

According to CNBC News, a 2014 study found that increased social media use was tied to decreased marital happiness. This research indicated that spouses who increased their social media use 20 percent over a year were up to 4.32 percent more likely to get divorced. Additionally, spouses who didn't use social media were, on average, 11 percent more satisfied with their marriages.

This particular study does not establish a cause-and-effect relationship. As the researchers noted, spouses with existing marital problems may simply be more likely to rely on social media for support and advice. Still, the researchers pointed out that social media can be addictive, and it can enable spouses to connect with others and engage in affairs. Due to these factors, social media use may directly cause strife in many marriages.

More recent research supports the assertion that social media activity may directly contribute to divorce. The Daily Mail reports that researchers in the UK surveyed over 2,000 married adults. About one in four respondents stated that they fought weekly with their spouses over suspicious social media activity. Additionally, one in seven considered seeking divorces because of a spouse's online activity.

Complex effects during divorce

Unfortunately, social media activity can have harmful effects during divorce as well as during marriage. According to Forbes, the information that a spouse shares on virtually any social networking site may be used as evidence in divorce. This evidence may reveal information that is highly influential. For example, consider the following situations that social media activity may help reveal:

  • One spouse has engaged in an extramarital affair and spent marital assets on the affair.
  • One spouse has hidden marital or separate assets from the other spouse.
  • One spouse is concealing an upcoming financial change, such as a promotion or bonus.
  • One spouse is overstating his or her need for financial support.

In Illinois, if spouses can't agree on how to divide property, family law judges must divide all marital property equitably. To identify an equitable arrangement, judges may weigh factors such as each spouse's separate assets or one spouse's dissipation of marital assets. When awarding spousal support, judges assess each spouse's earning capacity and financial need. Therefore, social media activity that indicates any of the above situations may significantly affect these parts of the divorce settlement.

As The Huffington Post notes, social media activity may also affect child custody and visitation determinations. This evidence may reveal information about a parent's lifestyle, attitude toward the other parent and ability to put the child first. It's important for spouses to keep these effects in mind when preparing for and completing a divorce.

Getting guidance before divorce

The factors that affect the final outcome of a divorce can be complex, as the many potential effects of social media evidence show. To prepare fully for a divorce and any related complications, spouses may benefit from seeking the assistance of a divorce attorney. An attorney may be able to offer advice on relevant laws, precedents and other considerations that may affect the final divorce settlement.

Keywords: divorce, social media, Facebook, evidence