FACEBOOK and Twitter are emerging as an important factor in 20- and 30-something divorces, a legal expert revealed today.
Scots divorce lawyer Fiona Rasmusen said younger people using social media to arrange affairs or rekindle relationships were behind a growing number of break-ups.
Others put their relationships at risk simply as a result of obsessive use of social media, according to Fiona, a divorce, separation and relationship specialist with family law firm Gibson Kerr.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that, while the overall UK divorce rate has declined in recent years, the number of 20 and 30-somethings who are separating is actually on the rise.
And stresses from family commitments, money worries and a prolonged period of time away from work, could mean the sites prove the final straw for couples whose marriages are already on the rocks over Christmas.
Edinburgh-based Fiona said: “Social media is increasingly becoming a big factor in divorce cases around theUK.
“Whether it’s due to one partner spending too much time on these websites, or using them to flirt with other users or cheat on their partner, sites like Facebook and Twitter are causing high tensions for many couples throughout the country. “
She added: “With so many younger people in their twenties and thirties using social networking sites on computers and mobile phones, it’s never been easier to connect with the virtual world.
“But the by-product of spending all your time on Facebook or Twitter is that it puts a strain on your own relationship – especially if one partner is using these sites to send sexually suggestive messages to old partners or to arrange extra-marital affairs.”
She also warned cheating partners that the internet made it easier than ever before for their scorned partner to catch them out.
She said: “Due to the open, social nature of the internet, it’s also becoming increasingly difficult to keep any personal information secret.
“In the past, suspicious partners would have had rely on their own powers of deduction or to hire a private investigator to check if their spouse was having an affair – but nowadays they can find out simply by checking their partner’s social networking accounts.
“In recent years, we’ve seen an increasing number of people taking steps towards divorce proceedings thanks to information they have found out about their partner on Facebook or Bebo, and it is a trend that shows no signs of abating anytime soon.”
“The festive period is always an extremely busy time for family lawyers and divorce firms, so we’re already planning on a similarly intense Christmas and New Year in 2011. We fully expect a large proportion of the calls we receive over the upcoming holidays to cite social networking among the reasons why people are seeking divorce advice, and we are preparing how best to deal with these queries.”
In 2010 there were 9,893 divorces in Scotland, compared with 28,480 marriages.
Earlier this year, a bigamist wife was caught after her husband found photos of her second wedding on the internet.
Jacqueline Barrie, 43, married second husband Kenneth Barrie atAberdeen’s registry office on June 26 last year
But her first husband Euan Fleming, who she married in 1994, spotted pictures of the second nuptuals on a social networking site.
The pair had split in 2008 but had never divorced.