Back in 1969, when the Divorce Reform Act was passed, the legal landscape for proving that a marriage had irretrievably broken down was very different. Divorce lawyers had to follow paper trails and rely heavily on the live testimony of expert witnesses. Uncovering the secrets of a spouse’s life could be a painstakingly slow and arduous process.
Things are different now. In the age of social media and smart phones, solicitors are finding that much of their work revolves around digital investigations, and concrete evidence of infidelity can be easy to find and establish. Sites like Facebook have made rekindling old friendships easier than ever, and this can sometimes lead on to extra-marital activity and infidelity. Digital investigations now set forth so much of the information that people may otherwise have to provide through live testimony.
Living lives online
There has been a cultural shift in recent years where it is now acceptable that we share our lives online and carry out most of our financial transactions digitally. Social media is the main outlet for this and many people disregard privacy settings, providing a wealth of insightful data available to third party searchers. Indeed, there has been a huge increase in ‘digital detective’ firms in recent years who can carry out bespoke, open source due diligence and investigation of a target individual.
It is no surprise then that online and social media activities are becoming extremely valuable and are increasingly relied upon to prove infidelity or hidden wealth in contested divorce cases. It is not just Facebook that can be used to build a case – all information found on Google or indeed the Deep Web can be, as long as it is publicly available and collected in the correct way.
Facebook be used as a reason for getting divorced?
In England and Wales, irretrievable relationship breakdown is the only ground for divorce. Unless you have lived apart for at least two years, the only facts that can be relied upon are adultery or unreasonable behaviour.
Spotting your partner on a dating site or flirting with an old flame on Facebook does not constitute evidence of adultery, but it may be enough to cite unreasonable behaviour in the context of an improper association leading to a suspicion of adultery.
If you have any questions relating to this topic, please contact a member of our team who will be happy to advise you.