Virtual divorce

Posted by Laura Bennett on

One of my colleagues was contacted by a client shortly before Christmas, who had been upset to find that she was still referred to on her former husband's Wikipedia entry as his wife.  Fortunately, her former husband agreed to correct the Wikipedia entry himself and it now reads that the parties are divorced.

Wikipedia allows users to correct and update information and also to delete pages.  Anyone can edit an unprotected page and you do not need to be a registered user to do so. In this case, therefore, the wife could have amended the information herself if former husband had not agreed to do so. However, some pages on Wikipedia, particularly biographies of living people, are protected which means they cannot be edited by an unregistered user.  For example, David Cameron's biography on Wikipedia is protected, as is Tony Blair's and Gordon Brown's. There are various levels of protection, but generally in order to edit a protected page, a user would need to submit an 'edit request' to a Wikipedia administrator who has the ability to edit the protected page. Wikipedia recommends providing independent evidence that your request to update the information is factually accurate, to ensure that the request is authorised.  In this case, had the profile been protected, the wife could have shown the administrator a copy of the Decree Absolute pronounced at the conclusion of divorce proceedings, which would have been sufficient to demonstrate that the requested amendment was factually accurate.

Of course, it is only a handful of clients at any given time who are likely to be the subject of a Wikipedia entry.  Members of the general public are unlikely to have their own Wikipedia page.  However, business owners in particular are likely to have their own websites containing a personal profile in which they refer to a former spouse or partner.  Going forwards, I will be reminding my clients of the need to update any such web entries at the conclusion of their divorce proceedings.   

For more information about the proposed changes to Facebook which would allow people to manage how they interact with exes on Facebook after their relationship ends, click here

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Laura is a Senior Solicitor in the Family team based in Oxford.

Laura Bennett
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