It is said that where the USA leads, the UK and the rest of the world soon follows. This is certainly true when it comes to culture and the arts, as well as social habits and leisure, and can be put down to the worldwide dominance of American companies. We think nothing of switching on to Netflix, ordering via Amazon, booking an Uber, fact-checking on Google, or grabbing a McDonalds – all of these businesses originated in the US.
This is also the case with social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkdIn, Snapchat, Pinterest and Reddit all have their headquarters in California, and dominate the lives of most people under 40 as well as a good number of those in older age groups.
So it probably won’t be long before the latest legal trend in America makes its way across the Atlantic. Since the explosion in the use of social media from the early 2000s, many US couples now request prenuptial agreements to protect themselves from social media revenge in the event of their divorce. For decades couples from wealthy backgrounds wanting to protect family money and assets have made prenuptial agreements. They have witnessed the financial and emotional cost suffered by family members or friends who have gone through a messy divorce, resulting in drawn out and costly legal disputes to share out assets.
More recently prenuptial agreements have focused on wider aspects of the relationship rather than solely financial matters. This might include whether frozen embryos can be used following a divorce, who owes what in university fees, or who gets to keep the dog. To a generation brought up on social media the thought of their reputation and image being savaged by their former spouse is terrifying, and so couples are now attempting to include reputation protection as part of a prenuptial agreement.
This may prove difficult in America, where the First Amendment of the US Constitution enshrines the principle of free speech in law. However, there have already been many cases brought before UK courts alleging defamation via social media, with some estimates claiming that cases have trebled in the last three years. It is not just postings to networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram which can be used to provide evidence, as any comment published anywhere online, in a blog, internet forum or online newspaper comment section, can all be used to make a claim against an ex-partner. As Donald Trump may yet find out, inflammatory messages sent in the heat of the moment can come back to haunt you.
It can be stressful and complicated when relationships break down. Bretherton Law’s experienced Family and Child Law Solicitors have been helping people with changes in their circumstances for over 50 years. We are members of Resolution and Accredited in Family and Child Law by the Law Society. For honest, sympathetic advice call Atifha Aftab on 01727 869293, or make an appointment via the contact form below.