LONDON: Facebook, which was first blamed for encouraging illicit encounters, is being increasingly cited as an evidence while seeking divorce.
Family lawyers have revealed that the problem has become so great that almost every divorce they have dealt with in the past year has involved the website.
One expert said she had dealt with 30 cases in the last nine months and Facebook had been implicated in them all.
Whilst another online law company said one in five of their divorce petitions in the past year contain references to Facebook.
Emma Patel, the head of family law at Hart Scales & Hodges Solicitors, said the site acted like a “virtual third party” in splits.
“Facebook is being blamed for an increasing number of marital breakdowns, and it is quite remarkable that all the petitions that I have seen here since May have cited Facebook one way or another,” she said.
“Its huge popularity as well as the lure of sites like Second Life, Illicit Encounters and Friends Reunited are tempting couples to cheat on each other.
“Suspicious spouses have used these to spy and find evidence of flirting and even affairs, which have then led to break-ups.”
She said that many of divorces came after partners found “flirty messages” on the Facebook wall of their partner – and also “inappropriate suggestive chats” which spouse’s can see.
The lawyer said that she urged all clients to “stay off” Facebook during divorce proceedings – as it could throw a spanner in the works of it going smoothly – especially if they post photos of new lovers.
She said: “They feel compelled to share their feelings online, and, in some cases, they not only express their stress, but also make inflammatory accusations against their partner.
“Divorce is a highly-charged and emotional time, but it is vital not to turn the situation into a public slagging match, played out for everyone to see online.
“The situation has deteriorated so badly that we advise feuding couples to avoid these sites until their divorces are settled.”
The family law specialist based in Dorking, Surrey, said that one divorcing couple’s rows on Facebook got so bad one party was charged with malicious communication after the police got involved.
James Wrigley, 34, of Hackney, east London, said: “My girlfriend left me after finding out I had been sending Facebook messages to a girl at work.
“She got my password and read the messages and that was the end of that – four years together down the drain, but at least we hadn’t got married.”
Other examples include Marianna Gini, 32, a housing support worker and mother-of-one who was married for six years before she found out through Facebook that her husband Robert, 34, was having an affair.
Sarah Picket, 36, a housewife from Oldham and mother-of-three was married to taxi driver Chris, also 36, for eight years, until her Facebook flirtations led to their split.
She did not have an affair but her husband found flirtatious messages and the relationship ended in acrimony and jealousy.
In 2009, a 28-year- old woman, from Newquay in Cornwall, ended her marriage after discovering her husband had been having a virtual affair in cyberspace with someone he had never met.
Amy Taylor split from David Pollard after discovering he was sleeping with an escort in the game Second Life, a virtual world where players reinvent themselves.
Lauren Booth, the sister-in-law of Tony Blair, ended up causing problems in her relationship when in a fit of pique she changed the status on her Facebook profile from married to single.
Miss Booth, who is half-sister of Cherie Blair, said it was a rash decision which she changed back but not before it upset her husband.
A spokesman for Facebook said it was “tosh” that Facebook could ruin a relationship.
“It is like blaming your mobile phone or your emails,” he said.
“Does being on Facebook force you to do something – absolutely not I would say.”