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Facebook Wreaks Havoc on One-Third of Marriages in the U.K.

The social networking giant was cited in 33 percent of divorce petitions, according to a survey from Divorce-Online.

Husbands and wives in the United Kingdom headed for divorce are increasingly citing Facebook in their petitions, according to a survey from Divorce-Online, a website that focuses on divorce in the U.K.

The survey, released this week, revealed that 33 percent of divorce petitions in the country contained the word Facebook. That's a significant increase over that last time the site performed the survey in 2009. At that time, Facebook was mentioned in 20 percent of the petitions sampled by the researchers.

While Facebook is being combed for signs of infidelity by divorce attorneys, they're also looking for disparaging remarks made by spouses about each other after they've separated and are embroiled in litigation, according to the website. It found the most common reasons for citing Facebook in a divorce petition to be:

  • Inappropriate messages to members of the opposite sex.
  • Separated spouses posting nasty comments about each other.
  • Facebook friends reporting spouse’s behavior.

Twitter was mentioned in only 20 of the 5,000 petitions analyzed by the website.

Because social networks have become one of the primary tools for communication, it has become the easiest place for people to have an affair or flirt with the opposite sex, Divorce-Online spokesman Mark Keenan said at the website.

"Also the use of Facebook to make comments about ex-partners to friends has become extremely common with both sides using Facebook to vent their grievances against each other," he added.

Facebook has become fertile ground for evidence in U.S. divorce proceedings, too. For example, a survey in February 2010 of the members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers revealed that 81 percent of them had seen an increase over the previous five years in the use of evidence from social networks in divorce proceedings. Moreover, 66 percent said that Facebook was a primary source for divorce evidence.

No doubt Facebook is being targeted by divorce lawyers because it's convenient and it has a high-tech cachet. As Dan Tynan observed in an article on Facebook myths:

"In an unhappy marriage, it would make sense that spouses are paying more attention to, and spending more time with, their Facebook friends than their significant others. (Of course, it doesn't hurt when your old high school flame is looking mighty fine in his/her profile picture.) That doesn’t mean Facebook caused the break up. Social networks are just a sexier thing for divorce attorneys to throw into the mix than, say, TV."

Follow freelance technology writer John P. Mello Jr. and Today@PCWorld on Twitter.

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