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Facebook Drama Reveals Troubling Issues in Divorce, Child Custody

Luckily, most divorcing couples don't face a fraction of the mayhem involved in a recent case reported by the Associated Press. While the dispute between John and Lynn France -- involving allegations of adultery, bigamy and parental kidnapping -- is in no way common, it does serve to illustrate some growing issues in divorce.

John and Lynn France of Ohio were married in Italy in July 2005. They have two boys and are currently involved in a child custody dispute. Depending on whom you ask, are either divorcing or were never married in the first place.

After a serious of suspicious business trips John took, Lynn began to suspect that he was cheating on her in the fall of 2008. After discovering his plans at a romantic hotel, Lynn tracked him down -- finding him with a woman claiming to be fiancée. In disbelief, Lynn confronted John, who told her he wouldn't actually go through with the wedding.

He did, though. Lynn later found wedding pictures on the other woman's Facebook page -- featuring John literally dressed as Prince Charming and his new wife as Sleeping Beauty in a Disney World ceremony.

Lynn initiated divorce proceedings, but changed her mind against the advice of her attorney when John wanted to reconcile last June. Three months ago, John abruptly took their two sons to live with him and his new wife in Tampa, Florida.

She hasn't seen the boys since. As in many parental kidnapping cases, little can be done without a child custody order.

John France Denies the Couple Was Ever Married

John France tells a different story entirely. He denies he was ever legally married to Lynn.

"While it appears that John and Lynda France were both under the impression, once upon a time, that they were married, the fact of the matter is that their marriage was never legally proper," said his attorney in a statement. While marrying abroad can involve some extra legal requirements, most such marriages are recognized.

He also denies that he is keeping Lynn from visitation with their children. He claims he has offered to buy her plane tickets to come to Tampa.

Facebook and the Internet May Hold Keys to the Truth

Although generally less spectacular, evidence of adultery, hidden assets and the time lines of events is being found more and more often on Facebook and through e-mail, text messages and the Internet.

"All of these things are just a trail of cyber breadcrumbs that are easily tracked by good divorce lawyers," Parry Aftab, an expert on Internet safety and privacy laws, told the Associated Press.

Lynn France herself is still pictured as a radiant bride on the website of the company that organized her wedding in Italy.

Aftab says the lesson people should take away from the Frances' case is not to expect any form of communication to be private.

"It's like trying to catch a river in your hand," she says. "It will leak out eventually."

For Lynn France, ironically, the only place she can see her children's faces is on the same Facebook page where she saw her husband's wedding photos. "It's stranger than fiction," she says.

Related Resource:

"On Facebook, wife learns of husband's 2nd wedding" (Associated Press, August 5, 2010)

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