THE BLOG

Texts and Tension: How Social Media Fuels Family Feuds

27/01/2014 13:46 GMT | Updated 29/03/2014 09:59 GMT

One of the regular themes of divorces which I have handled over the years is communication.

Spouses either seem to talk to little or too much and, when they do, they are frequently failing to grasp what the other is really saying.

Technology designed to make it easier to stay in touch has actually proven to be something of a problem, partially due to people relying on short, cold and impersonal means of communication rather than simply speaking.

Over-reliance on SMS and e-mail not only seems to have silenced some couples but provided another means of tripping us up, allowing individuals to easily and quickly cultivate relationships which threaten and can ultimately end what appear to be stable family structures.

The end of the year is generally thought to act as a spur to break-ups because of partners spending too much time together at close quarters or as a result of liaisons at the office Christmas party.

To those reasons can be added the temptation of texting one's lover while sat at the festive dinner table, according to one newspaper.

However, digital dalliances are by no means confined to early January, a period now seen as high season for divorce.

In fact, about 65 per cent of all the divorces handled by myself and my colleagues in Pannone's Family department which involve claims of adultery feature evidence drawn from Facebook, Twitter and SMS messages.

What they point to is not only how many people of differing age groups are using the huge variety of social media platforms and mobiles but how the means by which infidelity emerges has changed in a relatively short space of time.

No longer does the process of trying to find out whether suspicions of infidelity are justified involve rifling through trouser pockets for receipts or combing bank statements for evidence.

Why should it when some people seem to leave readily-available traces of their lives online?

One of the other significant patterns is how material gleaned from the internet has fuelled a change in the way people now divorce.

Adultery is not cited as often in divorce now as unreasonable behaviour, as my colleague Fiona Wood has only recently pointed out.

Unreasonable behaviour, of course, can include allegations of improper associations and we are frequently presented with evidence to support allegations of that kind from various social media platforms.

The problem for anyone using social media - and particularly those engaged in activity which they might not wish others to know about - is that you are not necessarily able to control what other people message or the photographs they post.

In addition, spouses frequently provide each other with passwords for their respective social media accounts. They sometimes forget that they have done so until an unfortunate text or image comes to light, which often causes friction within the marriage.

The growing volume of digitally-driven divorces might be checked if people abandoned text, Twitter and Facebook in favour of face-to-face communication and returned to letter-writing.

However, the quick-fire nature of contemporary life means that it's likely our index fingers will give out before that happens.