For its estimated 500 million users, Facebook is a place to network and stay in touch with friends old and new. But for Lynn France, it’s the place she learned that the man with whom she had a storybook wedding had married another woman — and today, it’s the only place she can see the two children she had with him.
On TODAY Tuesday, the Cleveland woman told Meredith Vieira she believed John France was her “prince” when the pair wed in a lavish ceremony on Italy’s Amalfi coast in 2005. John became a stepfather to Lynn’s older son, and together they had two more boys.
By 2008, however, John began taking more frequent business trips out of town, and Lynn became suspicious — particularly when, during a supposed trip to China, she found his passport at home, she said.
Her suspicions were heightened in October 2008 when she noticed John had left a website for a hotel up on the family’s computer screen. Lynn went to the hotel and found John there with another woman. When Lynn confronted the couple, the woman told Lynn she was planning to marry John. John moved out shortly thereafter.
Facebook shockWhile Lynn was trying to find out what was going on between John and the other woman, a friend suggested that the woman might have a Facebook page. Lynn searched the social network, and was shocked to find pictures of the woman with her husband, pictures of her bridal shower — and pictures of her wedding to John France at Disney World in Florida.
“I had a lot of mixed feelings: shock, hurt, disbelief, denial,” Lynn told Vieira. Seeing her husband’s second life playing out on Facebook “just added salt to the wound. He’s already cheating, and one step further, it’s out there for the world to see. He’s basically flaunting it.”
But things only got stranger, she said. Just three months later John France returned to Ohio, begging Lynn to take him back, and promised to get his second marriage annulled. Against her better instincts — and her lawyer’s advice — Lynn allowed John to move back in.
But then, Lynn told Vieira, on May 21 of this year, John France took their two sons and headed back to Florida to be with his “other” wife. Lynn has not seen John or her children since — except on Facebook. There she sees the other woman posting photos of her family on outings, lovingly referring to Lynn’s children as “my boys.”
‘Terrible beyond belief’
Lynn France told Vieira it’s apparent to her that her estranged husband and his other bride are taunting her on Facebook.
“It’s lunacy, it’s sick,” she said. “It’s sickening to me, and the fact that there are two babies involved, and are put into the middle of it, is just terrible beyond belief.”
Vieira asked if Lynn was tempted to go down to Florida and attempt to take the boys back. But Andrew Zashin, Lynn’s attorney and a family law expert, warned against it.
“Is it up to Lynn now to be her own policeman, and go down there and take the kids back and act as her own judge? It’s usually not a good idea,” Zashin said. “Self-help can be a very dangerous thing.”
So instead Lynn France inhabits a painful limbo while complex legal maneuvers play out. She filed for divorce in her native Ohio, but husband John beat her to the punch, filing for divorce and for custody of the children in Florida. An Ohio court ceded the divorce case to Florida, where Lynn awaits a court date Sept. 1. Meanwhile, Zashin told Vieira he has appealed the Ohio ruling and is trying to get the divorce case moved back to Lynn’s home turf.
“We’re going to have fights on many levels about the kids, about the marriage and about which state is going to control the matter,” he said.
For his part, John France claims his marriage to Lynn was never valid to begin with, and that his current mate is his true wife. He says a clerical error was made at the time of his marriage to Lynn in Italy, rendering it invalid from the start.
John France’s attorney issued a statement to NBC, saying: “While it appears both 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 and, therefore, it does not actually exist.”
John France’s attorney also expressed dismay at Lynn’s going public with their complicated marriage and separation, and said John plans to conduct a press conference on Thursday to tell his side of the story.
Meanwhile, Lynn France finds herself relegated to combing another woman’s Facebook page to see how her children have grown.
“To the two of them, this is a big joke. And to me it’s devastating, because these are my children,” she told NBC.