According to internet reputation company GotJuice.co.uk, "more than 80% of lawyers turn to social media to find evidence in divorce cases of infidelity and other behaviour that might settle custody battles or financial issues".
Two-thirds of evidence gleaned from social media is related to Facebook, reckons GotJuice.co.uk, where "individuals are more likely to flirt and unwittingly leave a trail for technology-savvy lawyers to find".
It seems that many people are careless when using social media websites, not realising how public their postings are. Mark Hall of GotJuice.co.uk says: "Many users aren't entirely familiar with their privacy settings – and that's a recipe for disaster. When they think they're having a private conversation, they could be broadcasting it to others.
"Uploading compromising photographs is also hugely dangerous", he adds. "Evidence of infidelity, drunkenness, drug-taking and other anti-social or illegal activity is routinely posted on Facebook without a care for who might see it in future."
GotJuice.co.uk says evidence from social media that has been used in divorce cases has included:
- Inappropriate messages to the opposite sex.
- Friends reporting a husband or wife's activities.
- Both parties involved in internet arguments.
- Compromising photographs.
- Location-based services destroying an alibi or proving infidelity.
"Even if the posts are deleted, that might not be enough," Hall adds. "Cached data means things that are posted online could be forever."
He says people can protect themselves from domestic, legal and work-related problems by taking the following simple steps.
- Think before you hit the ‘publish’ button - one unguarded comment could lead to a lifetime of regret.
- Keep friends, family, workmates and other social groups separate on social media sites – what you say to friends could easily be seen by a boss or taken badly by a relative.
- Switch off location services. It may sound furtive, but you don't have to say where you are every minute of the day.
Hall says avoiding "divorce by social media" is "very simple. Just think of everything you post as a public broadcast. Is it really worth putting your entire private life on the net?"
• GotJuice.co.uk helps businesses and people to manage their reputations online, including removing negative content and suppressing/removing fake reviews. Its blog contains free expert advice and tips on improving your personal reputation, responding to negative reviews and managing your children's reputation online.