From the woman who discovered on Facebook that her husband had another family, to the wife who found an online video of her husband dancing with a naked woman, social media are driving South Africans into the arms of divorce lawyers.
“People enter into cyber relationships which become an emotional relationship and a lot of people get caught out talking to someone else via WhatsApp or Facebook,” said Cape Town divorce lawyer Bertus Preller.
January and February are known as divorce season, as couples who have spent more time than usual together over the end-of-year holiday realise their relationship has run its course.
New figures from Stats SA show a rising divorce trend. In 2014, 24689 couples divorced, 17.7% more than three years earlier. More than half of divorces were initiated by women, and lawyers said social media were often the starting point.
Preller said in one matter he handled, a Cape Town woman discovered on Facebook that her husband, who often travelled to Thailand, had another wife and a four-year-old child there.
Another client discovered her husband’s cheating when she read explicit WhatsApp messages on his phone after he passed out drunk.
Another “crazy” story involved a woman who found an online video of her husband dancing with a naked woman on Ibiza off the coast of Spain.
The husband owned a villa on the island and his friend filmed him at a party.
“A lot of the issues are on Facebook, where the mistress is part of the friends list and the wife has some suspicion and she starts digging, browsing through the wall and seeing all the ‘likes’. That plays quite a big role,” said Preller.
Durban divorce attorney Shanel Singh said social media relationships developed rapidly. “People are willing to give up a marriage of 17 years when they know someone over Facebook for a period of three months. They meet on social media and get married very quickly.”