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Divorce with kids and FacebookSUMMARY:  As the saying goes, “Timing is everything” and nobody recently demonstrated that better than Facebook founder Mark Zuckenberg when he put his IPO before his “I do’s,” saving him billions if he and the woman he married after nine years ever call it quits. Ironically, Facebook has reportedly played a role in one in five U.S. divorces, according to a survey by matrimonial lawyers.  And Divorce Tool Box offers advice and perspective on Facebook in the news. 

Even though it was widely reported in 2011 that Facebook was responsible for one-fifth of all U.S. divorces, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made sure that if his recent marriage ends up in divorce, his $20 billion fortune is protected.  According to divorce lawyers as reported in New York Daily News, he cleverly timed Facebook’s IPO to be 24 hours before saying his “I Do’s” to college sweetheart Priscilla Chan, dramatically lessening Chan’s share in any future divorce settlement from the world’s 26th –richest man. 

Manhattan divorce lawyer Bonnie Rabin said, “If they married the day before [the social media powerhouse went public on May 18th], it would have made a huge difference.”  That’s because if the marriage dissolves, Zuckerberg’s holdings in Facebook will now be viewed as “separate property” since his billions were minted before he took the plunge.  Divorce attorney Alton Abramowitz added that after the ceremony, if Zuckerberg’s 533 million shares soar in value, Chan could be entitled to some of the runup.  Then again, much would depend on details of the prenuptial agreement—if there is one.  California divorce lawyer Peter Walzer says, “Somebody with that wealth, I would be very surprised if he didn’t have a prenup, although he is quirky, and when it comes to love, not everybody has guts.” 

Chan, 27, now a medical student, has been 28-year-old Zuckerberg’s girlfriend since they met at Harvard nine years ago, so there’s no reason to expect disaster in their marriage.  Even so, as the saying goes “timing is everything,” and that one day’s difference between his company’s initial public offering and his wedding, likely saved him billions if “for better or worse” ever leads to divorce. 

As to Facebook’s role in U.S. divorces, a 2010 survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) revealed that 81 percent of U.S. lawyers have reported an increase in the number of cases that cite evidence obtained from social networking sites as proof to file for divorce.  According to Marlene Eskind Moses, AAML president, “If you publicly post any contradictions to previously made statements and promises, an estranged spouse will certainly be one of the first people to notice and make use of that evidence.”    According to Forbes Magazine on November 7, 2011, a Connecticut couple was ordered to relinquish the passwords of their social media accounts, including their Facebook and dating websites.  What was once thought to be confidential or at least visible only “to their friends” will now become evidence in a divorce court where their children are involved-not only to question infidelity issues, but also to be used as ammunition to fight for full child custody.

Also, while Facebook doesn’t tag itself as a dating site, it does help people connect with others, especially with friends they may have been emotionally connected to in the past.  Says Steven Kimmons, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist at Loyola Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois, “We’re coming across it more and more. One spouse connects online with someone they knew from high school.  The person is emotionally available and they start communicating through Facebook.  Within a short amount of time, the sharing of personal stories can lead to a deepened sense of intimacy, which in turn can point the couple in the direction of physical contact.”  Kimmons goes on to say that these people may not set out to have affairs, but they start by deciding to say “Hello” to an old friend or someone they dated, to catch up on where they are and how they’re doing. 

Divorce Tool Box founder and certified divorce coach Audrey Silcox notes that Facebook can bring already less-than-satisfying marriages to a swifter end.  Says Silcox, “When casual connections to former and present friends are so much more easily made than before the days of social media, alternative relationships are more readily available.   Tracking down an old flame is now a click away, and as authors of Facebook and your Marriage, K. Jason and Kelly Krafsky explain, “People feel bolder behind a screen than in person.  People type and press send faster than common sense can kick in.” So I caution married individuals and those who are going through a divorce to be keenly aware that what they are doing and saying online, including on Facebook, could come back to haunt them in emotionally  and financially costly ways they hadn’t anticipated—and may deeply regret.”   

Divorce Tool Box is a new program providing telephone coaching by experienced professionals for individuals or couples contemplating or currently undergoing divorce. Custody parenting plans, assets and liabilities, division of property and money matters, along with emotional support are some of the issues addressed in customized, confidential, and convenient phone sessions to help people make wise decisions before entering the legal arena. This guidance can help ease a difficult process as well as save countless hours and costs in legal fees. Appointments are made by phone at (251)639-5788 or online at http://www.DivorceToolBox.com.

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