Local News

Marriages face new threat: social networking

Posted February 10, 2011
Updated February 11, 2011

Facebook

— Social networking websites have literally become today's "town square" – they are a place to reconnect with old friends and, sometimes, lost loves.

But local divorce attorneys say the number of cases that they deal with involving sites like Myspace and Facebook are on the rise and that they might be the most high-risk behavior facing marriages.

“Social media is a factor in almost every case in one way or another today,” attorney Lee Rosen, with Rosen Law Firm in Raleigh, says.

That was the case for “Scott,” whose wife of 13 years left him when he discovered she was cheating on him with a man she connected with on Myspace.

“This was a former fiancé, an old flame,” says Scott, who wants to remain anonymous to protect his family and his identity. “They hooked up online, found each other, started communicating, and that relationship started to grow a little bit.”

He’s not alone.

“It’s been really an interesting phenomenon,” says divorce attorney Alice Stubbs, of Tharrington Smith LLP in Raleigh. “In the last five years, Facebook, Myspace – all the social networking sites have changed the face of domestic law, and we obtain a lot of evidence from social networking.”

Stubbs and Rosen both say it has become a standard operating procedure for them to check the online presence of their clients’ spouses as well as their clients.

“All sorts of things go on Facebook. There’s real cheating. There’s things that sound like cheating and then there are all sorts of other things like threats, comments that shouldn’t have been made,” Rosen says. “It is a communication device that now has every kind of communication, positive and negative.”

Stubbs says she encourages her clients to remove their online profiles during divorce proceedings.

“Nothing good can come out of that,” she says. “You don’t want personal information to be used against you in court.”

Stubbs says that she has seen in some cases where online relationships can have dramatic effects.

“I've even seen cases where someone left the state, quit their job, left their children for a person they have met on Facebook, or maybe reconnected with, but don't really know,” she says.

The danger of love online is something Scott is very familiar with. His advice: be accountable to your spouse or significant other and share your social profiles with each other.

“I'm not advocating that anyone become a snoop, but if that's what you feel you have to do in a marriage relationship, there should be no expectation that everything you do is private, because you have a sacred obligation to your spouse,” he says.

Rosen agrees, however, he notes breaking into a spouse's account without permission is breaking the law.

“You should share your username and password. You should trust but verify,” he says. “Go ahead and share your credentials with your spouse so that everybody knows exactly what’s going on.”

He also agrees never “friending” an old boyfriend or girlfriend, “and if you’ve already ‘friended’ them, you should ‘unfriend’ them,” he says.

“You should communicate with your spouse right away if one of these friend requests or some sort of message comes from an old flame,” he says.

Scott is now remarried, and he says both he and his new wife share everything about their online activity.

“If you two are one flesh, as you are supposed to be, and you take a vow before God that you will be, then you have an obligation for accountability to your spouse,” he says.

81 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Oldest First
View all
  • ncspamfish Feb 11, 5:30 p.m.

    rosen s firm represented my ex during the divorce proceedings. and it probably cost her $25-30K. me??..........less than $2,500.

    the social networks provide an opportunity.......to escape nagging, to get the physical needs attended to, etc.

    as for marriage, its for women, by women, and about women........command and control.

    i dont regret any of my dallying and i m dang glad i m divorced now. life is good.

  • nmorton79 Feb 11, 2:56 p.m.

    Well the old saying is true. "If they are happy at home then they won't be looking outside."

    What a load of baloney...try telling that to a judge when they're awarding the jilted spouse alimony, child/spousal support, or a multimillion dollar settlement against the cheating spouses lover for alienation of affection and criminal conversation(both of which the state of North Carolina recognizes)...tell a judge that and see what they say. If someone is going to cheat, they're going to do it because thats what they want to do. If you are that unhappy, either do what you can to fix it or walk away. Don't blame it on the spouse and make it a reason to cheat.

  • Mugu Feb 11, 2:56 p.m.

    Tip: Don't get married.

  • TeamHatteras Feb 11, 1:32 p.m.

    To "Scot" from the news report last night... I saw your shadow, all 350lbs of it and your 3 chins to boot. Trust me, dude, FaceBook was not what caused your wife to stray.

  • MECU0905 Feb 11, 1:00 p.m.

    Soyousay "me..prove we have nothing to hide.

    you have to prove that?"

    No, I do not have to prove that, but we both choose to. Openness and honesty in a relationship keeps out the bad thoughts, feelings, and worries.

  • musthavecoffee Feb 11, 12:44 p.m.

    Oh, naw he didn't!

  • pjnoobie2 Feb 11, 12:36 p.m.

    I quarantee that the man they interviewed was having marital problems longgg before his wife got on facebook....he can blame it on facebook if he wants too and everyone can believe that if they want too...

  • fatchanceimwrong Feb 11, 12:19 p.m.

    "According to enrichment journal on the divorce rates in America, the divorce rate in America for first marriage is 41%; the divorce rate in America for second marriage is 60%; the divorce rate in America for third marriage is 73%."

    "The divorce rate in America is more than 50%, which means one in two couples will break up."

    http://marriage101.org/divorce-rates-in-america/

    "Various studies on US Divorce rate show significant differences when a comparison is made in 1st, 2nd and 3rd marriage, divorce rate in America.
    Divorce rate in America after first marriage is from 41% to 50%.
    US divorce rate after second marriage is from 60% to 67%
    After 3 marriages the US divorce rate is from 73% to 74%

    http://www.aboutdivorce.org/us_divorce_rates.html

  • YoucanthandletheTRUTH Feb 11, 11:51 a.m.

    fatchanceimwrong: You are missing the point. Your statistic is not accurate and therefore certainly does not reflect your statement of marriage failing more than it works. It is simply not true.

  • ezLikeSundayMorning Feb 11, 11:36 a.m.

    I have 5 or 6 ex girlfriends on facebook and it's not even the slightest temptation to me. My wife hangs out with one of them and I like one of her exes very much. If you thought enough of someone to date them, they were also a good friend at a time in your life.

    Many people happen to use facebook as a tool for cheating, but it's not automatic.

More...