Did you hear the one about the research studies that cited that Facebook is causing 20% of today’s divorces? Press releases headlined it. The news media ran stories about it. “Experts” validated it. People repeated it around the water cooler and their social networks. And everyone talked about it like it was a real stat. Unfortunately, the joke is on all of us.
So how did we buy into the fastest growing, most widespread urban myth in the world?
It started in late 2009, gained traction over the next several months, spread like a viral YouTube video throughout 2010, and finally, after being repeated for 14 months, it took on its most recent form declaring: “Facebook linked to one in five divorces in the United States.”
How did the whole thing get started?
Apparently Mark Keenan, the founder and managing director of an online divorce firm in the UK (Divorce-Online) had “heard from my staff that there were a lot of people saying they had found out things about their partners on Facebook and I decided to see how prevalent it was.”
The self-described “UK leader in online divorce services and solutions” sent out a press release on December 21, 2009 with their findings under the headline: “Facebook is bad for your marriage – research finds.”
Keenan said, “I was really surprised to see that 20 percent of all the petitions contained references to Facebook.”
How rigorous was the research?
According to the press release, “Research for Divorce-Online was carried out on 20th December 2009 with a sample size of 5,000 divorce petitions.” In fact, they “scanned their divorce petition database for the use of the word Facebook, and found 989 instances of the word in over 5,000 divorce petitions sampled.”
nd what about Divorce-Online ? They claimed to have helped over 60,000 couples achieve an amicable divorce since starting in 1999. This is roughly 3.5 percent of the approximate 1.66 million divorces in that time period. Their primary clients are those who want “an uncontested divorce without needing the services of a solicitor.” Our best guess is that these are younger couples with few if any real assets or property, and couples without children…a far cry from reflecting the general population.
Where did the 1-in-5 stat come from?
The combination of research-sounding buzz phrases like “sample size,” “sampled,” and “scanned” with dates and figures must have made the methodology sound legit.
On the same day the press release hit the faxes and inboxes, The Telegraph looks to be the first news source to bite. Their headline proclaimed that “Facebook is fuelling divorce, research claims.” But it was the sub-heading that said it all: “Facebook is being cited in almost one in five of online divorce petitions, lawyers have claimed. “ With several other UK pubs sharing the story and tens of thousands of people recommending the Telegraph article to their Facebook networks (in the pre-Like days)…within a day, the sub-heading morphed into the main headline:
• Daily Mail (Dec 22) – “Facebook ‘sex chats’ blamed for one in five divorces”
• CNET (Dec 22) – “UK divorce lawyers: A fifth of cases Facebook-related”
• NY Daily News (Dec 23) – “Irreconcilable wall posts? Nearly 1 in 5 divorce cases cite Facebook, lawyers say”
• Times of India (Dec 24) – “One in five divorce cases use Facebook as evidence”
From there, numerous international news sites carried the news of the danger Facebook posed to marriages in their own languages. Countless Tweets shared the dire news among the millions of Twitter users. By New Year’s, the one-in-five figure had become ingrained in the public conscience.
Another study adds fuel to the fire
In February 2010, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) released findings from a survey of its 1,600 members in a news release with the headline: “Big surge
The AA ML reported on two oft-cited (and seemingly credible) survey results. First, “81% of the nation’s top divorce attorneys say they have seen an increase in the number of cases using social networking evidence during the past five years.” Second, “Facebook is the primary source of this type of evidence according to 66% of the AAML respondents, while MySpace follows with 15%, Twitter at 5%, and other choices listed by 14%.”
Who reported on Facebook-related divorce stories in 2010?
Virtually everyone! This was one of the hottest topics of the year on news programs, talk radio, in publications and on websites and blogs! Here’s just a sampling of the coverage:
• msnbc.com – “Facebook is divorce lawyers’ new best friend”
• cnn.com – “Divorce attorneys catching cheaters on Facebook”
• foxnews.com – “Facebook to Blame for Divorce Boom”
• CBSnews.com – “Why Divorce Lawyers Adore Facebook”
• Chicago Tribune – “Do social media sites make cheating easier?”
• Miami Herald – “Facebook becoming key evidence in divorces”
• Mashable.com – “Facebook Becoming a Prime Source for Divorce Case Evidence”
• PCWorld – “Marriage on the Rocks? Better Stay Off Facebook”
Things are going to get a bit confusing here real soon, so it is important to remember that this was not a survey of all divorce attorneys, but AAML members only. Also, talking with a spokesperson from the AAML, they have never reported that Facebook was a cause of any number of divorces.
Link to the Krafsky article/pass this on: http://tinyurl.com/4r4nluv
And.. we’re back with a some ‘priceless’ divorce humor. Laugh it off, I say!
Michael Smalley unpacks his opinions if this woman should stay engaged to a cheating fiance.
But we want to know your opinion, should you dump a guy who cheats on you during your engagement?
TMZ has learned … pornography was one of the bones of contention in the custody battle between Jesse James and his ex-wife, Janine Lindemulder. Specifically, Jesse had issues with Janine’s connection to the sex industry. Wait, what does Michelle McGee do again?
Jesse said in his declaration, “Sunny now has a family, school, friends, pets, and community free from pornography and drugs.” Jesse goes on … he wanted to make sure if Janine had contact with their child, the court should “restrain her from allowing Sunny to be around drugs or pornography…” Unclear if strip clubs count.
As TMZ first reported, Janine plans to go to court in June to try and seek a modification in the custody order now that Jesse’s home life is in obvious upheaval.
Apart, perhaps, from death, is there anything more painful than divorce?
Years before a marriage arrives at the decree absolute stage, both partners started out on a path that should, ideally, have led to a long life of shared experiences, children, and mutual support — all underpinned by loyalty and love.
Indeed, both people felt so strongly that they solemnised it with a legal and possibly religious ritual in front of family and friends, pledging their undying connection.
Now the whole thing lies in ruins around their feet. And for most normal people this is a time of tremendous loss, bereavement and sadness.
Of course there may be a relief in shedding a horribly violent husband or an alcoholic wife, but that doesn’t take away from the underlying misery — the disappointment in seeing the end of a loving act of creation.
But for some people, divorce isn’t a time for mourning. It’s a time, believe it or not, for celebration. And some will actually toast the whole thing with a divorce party. Could there be anything more shallow and trivial?
Earlier this year, a London lawyer became the first in the country to sell divorce gift vouchers as Christmas presents. Vanessa Lloyd Platt, a senior partner at Lloyd Platt & Company, claims to have been inundated with enquiries about how to obtain the voucher, which offers couples half-hour or hour-long sessions with a lawyer to plan their split.
Before Christmas they claim to have sold 54 — to husbands, wives, mistresses and ‘friends’ of couples who thought that they ought to think of breaking up.
On Monday, Debenhams cynically cashed in on the fact that Britain has one of the highest divorce rates in the world, by announcing its divorce list — a divorce version of the wedding list — with suggestions of useful presents to give to someone recently divorced, such as toasters, TVs, sound systems and the like.
They are cashing in on a trend set by people such as Katie Price and Heather Mills, who both celebrated their divorces with parties and presents. But has anyone at Debenhams actually been through a divorce, I wonder? Do they know of the agony and anguish caused not only to the couple but to their family and friends?
When I got divorced, more than 30 years ago now, I remember nothing but the ghastly conflicting emotions. My husband moved out - or did I send him away? — and I recall weeping over our incapacity to stay together for the sake of our small son.
One minute I’d feel so full of guilt and self-hatred that I’d be tempted to ask him to come round and take over while I rushed off to Dover to hurl myself off a cliff; and then, the following day, feeling that all I wanted to do was to hire a hit man and eliminate him from the face of the earth.
Anyone who didn’t take my ‘side’ absolutely was cut from my address book (and took quite a long time, once I recovered my senses, to be allowed back in).
I felt — and rightly, I think — a complete failure. None of this was made any better by my choice of solicitors.
First of all I got a furious feminist who insisted I should split everything down the middle with my husband despite the fact that I was looking after a small child and couldn’t work a great deal so couldn’t match my husband’s earning power. She had to go.
Next, I found myself in the hands of fiendish ogre of a man who believed in taking every opponent of his client to the cleaners and who, when I discovered he’d mistakenly added an extra ‘0’ to the figure we were suggesting my husband pay me for his share of our son’s monthly upkeep, refused to change his demand, just saying, with a knowing wink: ‘Let’s just see if we can get away with it!’
In the end I got so desperate I persuaded an old family solicitor, who’d done the conveyancing on our house, to take over.
He managed to calm me down in my most grabby moments — and also stay my hand in my most over-generous.
Neither of us could actually cope with the idea of seeing each other face-to-face at all for a year until, one day when my by now ex returned from taking my son out for the day, I spontaneously asked him in for a cup of tea and he, to his credit, accepted — and from then on we began to rebuild our relationship into a new one, which has resulted now in our becoming the very best of friends.
Could the gift of a toaster from a friend have helped heal my wounds? Would a party have done the trick? I doubt it very much.
Indeed, I think it would only have made matters worse. And I know that the very idea of either never, ever crossed our minds.
After all, if a child dies, would you have a party? If you lost your job, would you celebrate? If your house burnt down, would you mark the event with a disco evening?
The truth is there is no such a thing as a ‘good divorce’. Even if your partner turned into a cruel dictator with psychotic tendencies, you could never call a divorce ‘good’. Because a divorce is the end of a marriage that was originally made with love, respect, kindness and attraction, a contract that was intended to last, lovingly, for the rest of your lives.
Every single person who was once married must have had some moments, at the beginning of the relationship, when they could see how it might work.
So we all know what the marriage could have been like. So giving a party shows not only what a shallow person you are, but that you’re the sort of person who gloats when disasters happen or friendships fail.
hat’s a divorce party like? Well, you can actually get them arranged by divorce party planners — who’ll provide you with a divorce cake, which features a tiny bride on the top, in a position that shows she has just pushed her tiny husband off the edge; he lies at the bottom of the cake, covered with bloody strawberry jam.
They’ll provide special divorce party coasters, with slogans written on them like ‘Who needs a man when you can have a drink?’
You can buy wedding ring coffins and banners reading ‘Just divorced!’
Some people have been known to play their wedding videos backwards to their guests to the accompaniment of I will Survive or Hit the Road Jack.
Others send cards with captions such as like ‘Heard about the divorce? Sometimes it’s better to love them and leave them — penniless if possible!’
Listen to how Christine Gallagher, who devised the divorce party concept in her book How to Throw a Break-up Party, justifies it all.
‘A divorce party is a way to mark the end of the pain and suffering that comes with divorce,’ she says. ‘It provides the ritual we humans need to cope with any difficult life transition. Rituals provide comfort and community.
‘It is an opportunity to vent, to cry, laugh, yell, whatever you need to do. Friends can throw a party to show their divorcing pal that they are supported, loved and not alone.
‘The party can be a great way the newly divorced person can thank all the people who stood by them through the ordeal of separation.
‘It’s an opportunity to announce your new status in life. You are now single and available for new experiences and even new relationships.
‘A whole new phase of life is just beginning. And that is something to celebrate!’
YUK! And do these divorce partiers ever consider the children? How would they feel about hearing that their mother was actually drinking and cheering on being officially split from their father, someone who, whether they like him or not, has the genes that make up half their identity?
And would the guests really want to come or, if they did, would they really feel comfortable?
Some have probably never seen the side of the other partner that the party-giver hates so much and, indeed, never will. Some, who knows, may wish to continue being friends with both of you, even now you’re separated.
To have a divorce party or to give divorce present is like celebrating a miscarriage. It is insensitive and heartless. If you have to have a party, have the decency and honesty to call it what it is — a wake.
Let’s fast-forward on Tiger Woods.
Let’s say it’s 2045 and Woods, not Jack Nicklaus, is approaching a 70th birthday.
Let’s say Elin Nordegren Woods has forgiven her husband for his many infidelities of the long ago, and they have raised a happy brood of children. Let’s say they have grown old together as doting grandparents with a golden wedding anniversary in sight and are set to remain married until death do they part.
Or let’s say there has been no reconciliation and the couple has divorced, but discovered separate happinesses in subsequent marriages. Let’s say they have managed a healthy parental partnership resulting in happy children and grandchildren.
Or let’s say there has been a divorce, and Woods has remained single while leading an exemplary life as a non-custodial father.
Let’s say, too, that Woods has surpassed Nicklaus in golf’s record books by having amassed an ambundance of major championships, and has done so without a hint of competitive scandal.
Would any scenario be sufficient to lead to Woods’ public redemption?
Or is his legacy forever tarnished as a result of the current circumstance in which he finds himself?
Mapping out a pre-nuptial agreement is never particularly romantic. But it can be especially tricky when children from previous relationships are involved. Winnipeg-based engineer John Lang found this out the hard way. When Lang (not his real name) married his second wife 22 years ago, he wanted to guarantee that his sizable estate would be fairly divvied up among his new wife and his three children upon his death, so he drew up a pre-nup in which he distributed assets of comparable value among them. Easy enough. Except in the two decades since, Lang’s net worth has grown significantly, and some of his assets appreciated much faster than others. If he died today, his wife would inherit significantly more than his kids. Lang now finds himself in the unenviable position of having to revise the agreement.
The dilemma of how to protect everyone in a blended family situation is an increasingly common one. Typically, unless special arrangements have been made, the assets accumulated during any marriage are divided equally in the event of a divorce. When one spouse dies, the general rule is that the entire estate rolls over to the surviving spouse. Problems tend to arise, however, when there is friction between the children of the deceased and the remaining step-parent.
Experts say the key to avoiding future family brawls is clear premarital communication. Sit down with your partner and open the books. “It’s the step most people skip over,” says Frank Wiginton, a CFP with Toronto’s TriDelta Financial. “Find out where each other is at financially, and work toward a common understanding.”
In most cases, that understanding should include two words: pre-nuptial agreement. Even if you’re not wealthy. Considering that 60% of second marriages end in divorce, a pre-nup is the best way to protect your kids’ inheritance. It should detail not only who gets which assets, says Deborah Moskovitch, author of The Smart Divorce, but also how family heirlooms will be distributed. “Keep the china set or grand piano in the family,” she says. “That gives children a sense of comfort.”
If not done correctly, splitting up even simple assets can create major headaches. For instance, be sure to divide your estate using percentages, not dollar amounts. Lawyers often ignore inflation, says Jim Stoffman, a lawyer with Winnipeg’s Taylor McCaffrey. Say, for example, a 40-year-old parent gifts their child $100,000. “If they live another 50 years, that’s like giving the kid $10,000.” Instead, he says, “look at stocks, bonds, RSPs, value of cars and homes, and divide proportionally.” In addition to specifying who gets what, Stoffman asks clients to develop plans for four scenarios: one for short-term, medium-term, and long-term marriage, and one for death. The short-term scenario, which pertains to a marriage of five years or less, is the easiest one to work out: just keep the status quo. As the anniversaries pile up, Stoffman says, relationships inevitably get more complicated. “One can rarely plan beyond three to five years,” he says. “But you can try.”
One good option is a testamentary trust. When a spouse dies, everything in the trust — real estate, bank accounts, portfolios — technically goes to the children, but they are prohibited from accessing it until the step-parent dies. So while the kids own the home, the surviving spouse can reside in it indefinitely and live off accrued interest from the investments.
Another way to avoid common pitfalls is to ensure you and your spouse are clear about who owns what. Don’t jointly register assets. Make sure you know whose name is on the house and the RRSP, for example, and who has full control over the investment accounts. If you can’t answer these questions, you can bet a lot of your estate holdings will be eaten up in legal fees.
Lang didn’t follow the rules, which is why he’s sweating. His wife and kids get along now, but who knows what will happen in the future? “I don’t want my children to feel cheated,” he says. Sounds like it’s time to call the lawyer.
There are times in life when it’s clear just who your true friends are. One of those times, I’ve discovered, is when your marriage is on the fritz. I’m so lucky to have Charlotte*, who took a panicked call from me a few weeks ago—while she was visiting her daughter at college. And Claire*, who’s had the kids and me over for impromptu dinners on more than one occasion when I’ve been too strung out to cook. And Martin*, who lets me vent over coffee several times a week, and then offers up all sorts of helpful advice from the POV of a man who’s been through his own marital break-up.
In fact, I have so many amazing friends that I’m going to stop naming fake-names here, at the risk of screwing up like an overwhelmed Oscar winner and forgetting somebody. Besides, I have a more general point to make, and that is: Whenever you’re going through a tough time, don’t underestimate the power of pals to get you through. There’s all sorts of research to support the importance of a strong social network when it comes to personal satisfaction and contentment. One of my favorite and most heart-warming studies (if you can call the results of hard-core science “heart-warming”!) came out about a year ago: Researchers at Harvard and the University of San Diego reported that happiness is “contagious”—they found that one person’s happiness spreads not just to that person’s immediate friends, but also to the friends of that friend, and to the friends of those friends! They were even able to quantify this: If one person in your social network is happy, it increases your chances of being happy by 15 percent! It just so happens that I interviewed the lead researcher of the happiness-is-infectious study for an article in a parenting magazine, and discovered that there’s a bonus: He told me that within families, the happiness bug is as catching as pink-eye: If you’re cheery, your kids are likely to be as well. (You can read more about this study here.)
And so I, for one, plan to siphon off all the blissful vibes I can from my BFFs—because I know that I won’t just feel better myself, I’ll also spread some joy.
* Names have been changed, of course, although I wish I could mention these amazing folks by name.
“Single mothers who put photos of their pre-school kids on their social networking homepages are creating a happy hunting ground for pedophiles.”
The warning comes from Crystal Jacquez, managing editor of Guys and Lies.com, the online back grounding site designed exclusively for women.
“Single mothers almost always do it.” says, Jacquez. “It’s not only incredibly dangerous but worse, most single moms have absolutely no idea that it’s dangerous at all!”
“Think of it,” continues Jacquez, “if you’re one of the tens of thousands of pedophiles with a taste for really young kids, how do you get to them? Children under five or six are just too young to be online.
“So what does this most dangerous form of pedophiles do?” asks Jacquez, “He surfs social networking sites looking for the pages of young single mothers.
Literally, millions of single moms are now on social networks like Facebook and MySpace — and almost all of them proudly show off photos of their kids on their homepages and profiles.
So if you’re a pedophile stalking preschoolers, half an hour of searching out single mothers on social sites and you’ve got a dozen lush candidates – photos and all - just a few key strokes away”.
Not only that, but these predators know that these kids are often protected only by lonely, vulnerable women — women who are looking for men who they hope love children. WHAT AN OPPORTUNITY! It’s a pedophile’s dream!
Read this excerpt from a report in the journal American Psychologist, published by the American Psychological Association, regarding pedophiles stalking pre-schoolers on the internet:
“Finding prepubescent victims directly (on the Internet) is quite rare; such offenders use the Internet in other ways. Pedophiles typically get access to preschool victims through online contact with parents”
“If you have pictures of your child on line,” says Jacquez, “don’t be too surprised to get a message like the following from some nice sounding guy”:
“Hey! I just saw your profile on Facebook and you are one great looking lady — and that little girl of yours is just marvelous looking! She looks so bright etc. etc. etc!”
“You’re going to have a new best friend very soon,” she says. “Count on it!”
Who hasn’t heard of Lolita, one of the most famous books in America, in which the pedophile gets access to the prepubescent daughter by courting her divorced mother. You can still see the movie on cable TV with James Mason and Shelley Winters as the grown-ups and Sue Lyon as Lolita.?
Jacquez also cites the following statistic from: Offender Characteristics, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics re. Victim-offender relationships in sexual assault regarding who sexually assaults children under 6 years old.
Who assaults children under 6 years old:
Trusted family members: 48.6%
Trusted family acquaintances: 48.3%
“If a pedophile targets your child’s photo on your homepage, trust us,” says Jacquez, “they’ll become a ‘trusted family acquaintance’ soon enough.
“Don’t close down your social network homepages” Jacquez says. “Just get those photos of your kids off them!”
“One thing more thing,” says Jacquez, “when you meet a new guy online, check him out immediately with us at Guys and Lies.com (www.guysandlies.com). Our site is free and was built in order to empower women to check out the backgrounds of guys that they meet online.
“First, check our Child Molesters Section where we access the photos and home addresses of over 360,000 registered sex offenders. Then check him out in our Criminal Records Section. Then check to see if he’s using a phony name. After that, check out all his claims about his background. “There is no way,” she says, “that you can be too careful.”
Jacquez asks you to please forward this article to single moms you know who have their kid’s photos online..
by Deb Mecklinger
Use the following tips to maintain grace, save face and keep your divorce out of cyberspace. When it comes to divorce, DO NOT use Twitter to:
1) Break News: Don’t break your story with a Tweet. Instead, speak.
2) Spread News: Be discreet and keep your story in house. This is not the time to build an audience or extend your audience.
3) Find followers: Don’t use social networking to support your position.
4) Gather Information: Don’t conduct public opinion polls about your soon-to-be-ex-spouse.
5) Speed-link: Don’t use Twitter to enter your Ex’s world or infringe on his/her boundaries, friendships or connections.
6) Vent: Don’t be a twit and share your snit or have a twit-fit about your Ex.
7) Build Your Brand: Create your newfound image off-line. Don’t be a hitter via Twitter in the midst of divorce. Be elegant and develop your new psyche and persona out of the public domain.
8) Follow a Twitter Divorce Leader: If your ex-spouse is tweeting about you, don’t be a Twitter Copycat.
9) Set The Record Straight: A single tweet will live forever. Watch it show up in affidavits, court documents and in the hands of friends, family, co-workers, children and the world at large.
10) Noise making: Don’t get sidetracked by Twitter chaos. In the midst of divorce the multitude of messages can be confusing and overwhelming. Keep it simple and stay focused. Leave Twitter for later.
When it comes to conversation, promotion, and networking, Twitter is King. When it comes to Divorce, discretion, respect and privacy are fighting to reign supreme. While Twitter is fun, engaging and quickly replacing daily conversation, divorce is a process that requires mindfulness and intentionality when communicating and sharing. The temptation to use Twitter in ways that may result in unwanted consequences is particularly seductive for the separating spouse whose self-management skills may be compromised by the divorce process. To ward off the opportunity to Tweet down the wrong street, put Twitter on hold until your Divorce process folds.
Deborah Mecklinger, LL.B., M.S.W., A.T.C.