Love and Facebook

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg changed his status update to married over the weekend, tying the knot with long-time girlfriend Priscilla Chan. But while the wedding seemingly went off without a hitch (Zuckerberg and Chan surprised their guests, who thought they were attending her graduation party), the social networking site has increasingly been a factor in far more wrenching matters of the heart. According to SmartMoney, the UK research firm Divorce Online recently found that one-third of divorce filings in 2011 made a reference to Facebook (that’s up from 20 percent two years ago). What’s more, 80 percent of U.S. attorneys surveyed by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers say they’ve seen a rise in social networks playing a part in breaking up marriages.

While this isn’t exactly groundbreaking news — as long as the site has been online it’s been a playground for flirts — the way Facebook is increasingly being incorporated into divorce proceedings is still very uncharted territory. Attorneys are finding ever more creative ways to use the site as fodder for court filings, using pictures of lavish vacations or drunk partying done after a split as a way to challenge the need for financial support or claims for child custody. With the Timeline, it’s even easier to see exactly when conversations and flirtations begin online. And even attempts to delete your profile are subject to legal scrutiny. According to an attorney interviewed yesterday on WBUR, when “a party in a divorce deletes or destroys material posted on Facebook during the case, he or she can be sanctioned for ‘spoliation,’ the destruction of potentially discoverable information.”

As for Zuckerberg and Chan, only time will tell whether Facebook will help — or hurt — their marriage. (Facebook’s recent IPO, despite its current falters, will have a way of making their lifestyle much more plush). Rumor has it that back when Chan was moving from Cambridge to Palo Alto, she had Zuckerberg sign a contract. It promised that he’d agree to ““One date per week, a minimum of a hundred minutes of alone time, not in his apartment and definitely not at Facebook.” Let’s hope that was part of the marriage contract as well.