The Wall Street Journal had an interesting piece about Facebook and Divorce today. It was written by Carl Bialik, “The Numbers Guy” (click here for a link to his blog and to the article). Feel free to read the article, which focuses on the issue, but it really just scratches the surface. Facebook cannot “cause” a divorce any more than a plane can “cause” a crash. People initiate, respond and act. Facebook may facilitate things. Facebook may create introductions, or re-introductions to former friends (or to friends of friends). But human beings are the actors, not Facebook.
Yes, as divorce lawyers we see Facebook arise in all sorts of ways. It sometimes provides a vehicle to gather evidence (photos of a spouse kissing a paramour or vacationing in Florida while the other spouse thinks they are in Boise?). But even before Facebook, the internet did the same thing, but perhaps not so easily. There were emails, Chat Rooms, Dating Sites and even “Histories” (a list of recent websites visited by a computer user). But as a divorce lawyer who has practiced family law since before the Internet, I don’t think human nature has changed, or been changed by Facebook. Human beings seek happiness. Sometimes they find it in a good book or movie. Sometimes in alcohol, sometimes in a lover, and hopefully, in the best case scenario, they simply find happiness in themselves and their loved ones.
No, Facebook doesn’t “cause” divorce. But can it provide opportunities, connections and introductions? Sure. But so can other avenues. The difference is that Facebook feels safe, innocent. Typing from your home is much easier and less aggressive than going out to meet people, especially if the intent is to meet someone to be unfaithful with.
Cheaters will find a way to cheat, Facebook or no Facebook. But there are folks who may not otherwise cheat. Perhaps they didn’t have the courage to flirt? Perhaps they had no way to meet people (they may live in a remote area)? Perhaps they are just shy? Facebook (and really the internet) eliminates these obstacles.
So what can be done? Nothing. It is really the same dilemma that has been around fory ears. Do spouses trust each other? In the past it may have been do you trust your spouse to work late, especially if there is someone at work to whom he or she may be attracted? It all comes down to love and fidelity. Some people just have it. And they are the lucky ones.
I would never have thought this was such a hot topic. But this week I was interviewed by the New York Times (click here for a link to the interview in the New York Times) and by the Today Show on NBC (click here for a link to the interview on the Today Show). Spouses cheating in the marital bedroom apparently is a topic of much interest. And it makes sense. While adultery is usually hurtful, adultery in the bed where spouses share not only intimate romantic moments, but where they also share their hopes and dreams, not only for themselves, but the hopes and dreams they have for their children, is often much more offesnive and painful.
Perhaps it is the sheer disregard for the other spouse’s feelings (wouldn’t an affair anywhere be enough), or maybe that it may seem to be a more deliberate attempt to harm a spouse, but either way, cheating in the marital bedroom is always going to generate more emotional reaction than an affair outside the home.
Does it matter legally? I know of no law that states that an affair in the marital bed, or even the marital home should be treated any differently than an affair in a hotel room. But when the trier of fact has to decide how to divide property, the fact that one spouse cheated, in the marital bed, may be more harmful to that spouse. Especially in Georgia where a jury can be used to decide such cases. We need to remember that people (judges or jurors) who decide cases make value judgments. And an affair in the marital bed is at best inconsiderate, and at worst highly offensive. But then, people who have affairs in the marital bed are probably not thinking long term (as in what might a judge think), and that, like many actions during a marriage is the biggest problem (not thinking ahead).
Is infidelity epidemic for athletes? I think not. But I do think that famous people have more opportunities for, are given more opportunities for, or are solicited more for extra marital relationships than the average person. Does that make it okay? No. Does that make it a little easier to understand, yes.
I am often asked why athletes or other famous people seem to have more extramarital relationships than the average person. First I am not convinced that is true. But second, if it is true, there must be some explanation, even if we don’t like the explanation. One such explanation is that the offer or opportunity is probably much more present for these high profile folks. Should they resist, sure. Are they human, sure. Is it human to cheat?????? Having sex is human. Seduction is human.
ESPN just wrote an article on this topic and interviewed me about it (that is what gave me the idea for this blog entry). You can see the article by clicking here. What is interesting to me is not the cheating, but America’s fascination with it. Stories of infidelity amongst the famous are always big news. Tony Parker, Tiger Woods, A-Rod, Bill Clinton and on and on. Why do we care? Perhaps it is because we expect more from our heroes. We expect that those whom we admire, those who are more athletic than the rest of us, more successful than the rest of us would also be more moral than the rest of us. After all, we are supposed to play by the rules, why shouldn’t they, especially when they already have so much. Perhaps the fascination is with the fact that the rich and famous are never satisfied, even though we would be if we had a tenth of their wealth, fame or success (but would we?).
To me the real issue is the relationship that is being hurt. If there is a family that is otherwise working well, extramarital affairs are quite an obstacle. In my experience, it seems that most such affairs start well after the marriage is on the down turn. Yes new relationships should wait until a marriage has fully ended, but we are not a patient species.
I do not have the answers, but I do enjoy asking the questions, which is a good place to start. Tell me what you thing by commenting.
Today, August 15, 2010, the Governor of New York announced that he signed a bill permitting “no-fault” divorce in New York. So what exactly is “no-fault”? Well it varies across the country, but generally it means that one need not prove the other spouse was at “fault” in the break up of the marriage. That is, if one person believes the marriage is over, that is all that needs to be proved. And that will make “uncontested divorces” easier.
But does that make fault irrelevant? In many states the answer is no. Georgia and many other states permit introduction into evidence, proof of “conduct” such as adultery, drug use, spousal abuse and gambling. These types of conduct can affect the decision of the court on issues such as alimony, custody and division of property in some states.
But what no-fault divorce allows, is a less confrontational divorce for many who have peacefully and amicably come to the decision that their marriage should end. The removal of the need to prove “fault” removes the need to accuse anyone of being the cause of the divorce. While such conduct issues may be relevant in some states for some issues, many people simply desire to move on and resolve their differences in a non-confrontational manner. This new New York law makes it a bit easier in New York to do what people elsewhere in America have done for years, to divorce without pointing fingers or laying blame. It is about time.