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Internet Addiction and Divorce
Internet addiction, pornography and divorce
As a divorce attorney, I see more and more cases where Internet addiction, especially addiction to Internet pornography, plays a role in the divorce, is a factor in custody decisions, and can even be an issue in the division of marital property. In one case, a parent’s excessive use of the internet and resulting neglect of their child played a major role in the eventual custody decision.
Online pornography has been called the “quiet family killer.” Adultery is now just a mouse click away. In 2004, Dr. Manning testified to the US Congress that 56% of divorces involved one spouse’s obsessive internet porn addiction. In a survey of members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 60% of the lawyers believed that Internet pornography was linked to higher divorce rates. The American Psychiatric Association has recognized that Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is a legitimate health concern. IAD is also considered for recognition as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-V.
Like other addictions, Internet addiction can poison an addict’s social, work and family relationships. I’ve heard spouses call themselves “cyberwidows.” Excessive time online often results in the neglect of family, friends, social activities and interests. Children especially can be victims of a parent’s internet addiction. Young children are harmed if they are unintentionally exposed to Internet pornography. Experts consider that the average age is first exposed to Internet pornography at the age of nine. Children can feel a sense of abandonment and neglect from parents with excessive Internet use, and, worst of all, can even suffer abuse if the parent gets angry when they are interrupted. Extreme cases have been reported where internet addiction has even led to the death of children. For example, a Florida mother killed her 3-month-old baby for repeatedly crying and interrupting her “Farmville” gameplay. A Korean couple has been convicted of murder when they let their baby starve while raising a virtual baby online.
The first thing your divorce attorney should do if they suspect a parent is an internet addict is find out if the children have been exposed to any harmful or sexually explicit material and how much time that parent spends on the internet. Has the parent taken any safety precautions to prevent exposure to sexually explicit material on the Internet? It may be possible to allocate Internet sites to determine how much time a parent spends on a particular site. A parent who plays World of Warcraft all day can hardly argue that they are providing adequate supervision and care for their children. It may even be possible to obtain an order to search the parent’s computer. Court-appointed custody evaluators are often asked to look at parents’ computers during home visits. In a reported Connecticut case, the court ordered a couple to exchange their Facebook and other dating site passwords as part of the discovery process.
But before you look through your wife’s computer a word of caution. Most states have strict privacy laws. Anyone going through a divorce is advised to trust their attorney to uncover evidence of guilt and they should not take matters into their own hands. In one California case, the Court of Appeals found that an ex-husband snooping into his ex-wife’s email account during a bitter custody dispute could be “abuse” and grounds for a domestic violence restraining order. In a Cincinnati case, the husband was forced to issue an apology to his wife on his Facebook page or face prison.
Another aspect of internet addiction that might surprise those going through a divorce is how it can affect property division. It was news to me that online creations such as avatars, weapons and imaginary worlds can be valuable marital assets. A virtual space station on Planet Calypso reportedly turned in $330,000. The owners of the computer game “Second Life” estimated user-to-user transactions at $567 million in 2009 and one Chinese woman, Ailin Graef, reportedly acquired virtual real estate worth $1 million. On the other hand, if your spouse is not the virtual tycoon and has blown away thousands of dollars in online gaming, you may be able to demand reimbursement for having intentionally misappropriated marital funds.
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#Internet #Addiction #Divorce