Sunday, 3 June 2012

Facebook face-offs pepper divorce cases across India

Facebook social networking going serious??

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has not marked his relationship status as "married". His wife Priscilla Chan has. He has no picture of them as newly-weds on his page, she does. It's fine for the couple after the billionaire-founder of the world's most popular social networking site tied the knot about a couple of weeks ago, but in a small town in Tamil Nadu, a similar "failure" by a man to update his "basic info" on Facebook is being cited by his wife as grounds for cruelty.

In Mumbai, a young couple stood in front of a family court judge last week. Their complaint against each other was that the other was always glued to Facebook. The judge reprimanded them, then counselled them. They finally admitted that they still did like each other, resolved to not "unfriend" and to give their marriage another shot.

Some marriages may get saved, but Facebook, which a recent survey in UK blamed for nearly a third of all divorces, is leading to a rise in face-offs in family courts across India too. "Facebook is fast becoming a reason why many marriages are faltering," says celebrity divorce lawyer.

As divorce petitions get peppered with the mention of Facebook and printouts of web pages, the reason is not merely because couples spend more hours individually on the site, the lawyer said. "Spending more time, especially at night before bedtime, with friends on Facebook or merely playing games on the site is no doubt eating into couples' together-time or intimacy. More pertinently, if someone wants to have an affair or flirt, then FB is an easy place to do it. People also use the 'friend finder' to re-unite with school or college friends and some really unite. One couple opted for mutual consent divorce when her husband found his former love on FB," the lawyer explained.

Facebook posts, photos now court evidence

FB a marriage breaker,really?
"There are now FB widows and 'spending time on Facebook' is replacing 'spending time online watching porn' as grounds for cruelty,'' said the lawyer.

A divorce advocate, recounts that in Pune, a woman found her husband "obsessed with FB and 'adding' women friends. She has filed for divorce". Facebook posts and pictures are being used as evidence in courts.

Facebook actually throws up proof of infidelity through pictures posted on friends' pages, said Arthi P S, a Chennai-based divorce lawyer, who believes that distraction in a marriage is endemic, it is just that the mode has changed for most with Facebook.

In Chennai, a woman dragged her husband to court after she found a picture of him in a "compromising" position with another girl on the page of a friend of her friend. "It was a recent picture," she claimed, citing it as evidence. He is denying the charges in court.

A Senior lawyer from Delhi said: "Photographs posted by friends or even husbands and wives are finding their way into divorce battles in a big way."

Families frown at "inappropriate status updates, comments and photographs", said veteran family court lawyer Tara Hegde. In an ongoing case, a man moved court after he found out what his wife was really up to from her FB status updates. "People tell the court one thing, but post the truth online. Facebook exposes a person for what he or she really is," Hegde said.

A lawyer said Facebook has opened avenues to help reinforce suspicions. In Mumbai, a woman, newly married, refused to consummate her marriage. Her husband was patient, said advocate Hegde, till he stumbled on to her FB profile page — it had pictures of her with many male friends. Now, he has filed for annulment with FB pictures as evidence.

The Mumbai family court right now is struggling to figure out where to even send summons to a "wife" who a man says he married after meeting on Facebook.

"I am trying to make the world a more open place," says FB founder Zuckerberg. Millions like him for it, but some are now clicking "unlike."


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