Internet Addiction and Divorce
Internet addiction, pornography and divorce
As a divorce attorney, I am increasingly seeing situations where internet addiction, particularly addiction to online pornography, plays a role in the divorce, is a factor in custody decisions, and may already be an issue in the division marital character. In one case, a parent’s excessive use of the internet and resulting neglect of their child played an important role in the eventual custody decision.
Online pornography has been called the “quiet family killer.” Adultery is now only a click of the mouse away. In 2004, Dr. Manning testified to the U.S. Congress that 56% of divorces involved obsessive internet porn addiction by one spouse. In a survey of members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 60% of the lawyers thought that internet pornography was connected to higher rates of divorce. The American Psychiatric Association has acknowledged that Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is a authentic health concern. IAD is also being considered for admission as 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 familial relationships. I’ve heard spouses refer to themselves as “cyber-widows.” Excessive time online often results in the neglect of family, friends, social activities and interests. Children especially can be the victims of a parent’s online addiction. Young children are harmed if they are exposed inadvertently to internet pornography. Experts consider that the average age is first exposed to internet pornography at the age of nine. Children may feel a sense of abandonment and neglect from a parents excessive internet use, and, at worst, may already suffer abuse if the parent gets angry when they are interrupted. Extreme situations have been reported where internet addiction has already led to death of children. For example, a Florida mother killed her 3 month year old baby for repeatedly crying and interrupting her “Farmville” game playing. A Korean associate was tried for murder when they left their baby to starve while they raised a virtual baby online.
The first thing your divorce attorney should do if they speculate that a parent is an internet addict is to find out whether the children have been exposed to any unhealthy or sexually explicit material and how much time that parent spends on the internet. Has the parent taken any security precautions to prevent exposure to sexually explicit material on the internet? It may be possible to subpoena internet sites to determine how much time a parent spends on a particular site. A parent who plays World of Warcraft all day long is hardly in a position to argue that they are providing proper supervision and care for their children. It might already be possible to acquire an order to search the parent’s computer. Court appointed custody evaluators often ask to look at parents’ computers during home visits. In a reported Connecticut case, the court ordered that a associate exchange their Facebook and other dating website passwords as part of the discovery course of action.
But before you go riffling by your spouse’s computer a information of caution. Most states have strict privacy laws. Anyone going by a divorce is well advised to rely on their attorney to discover incriminating evidence and they should not take matters into their own hands. In one California case, the Court of popularity found that an ex-husband’s snooping around in his ex-wife’s email account during a bitter custody argument 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 confront jail time.
Another aspect to internet addiction that might come as a surprise to those going by a divorce is how it can affect character division. It was news to me that online creations such as avatars, weapons and imaginary worlds can be valuable marital assets. A virtual space stop on Planet Calypso reportedly sold for $330,000. The owners of the computer game “Second Life” valued user to user transactions at $567 million in 2009 and one Chinese woman, Ailin Graef, reportedly acquired virtual real estate holdings worth $1 million. however if your spouse is not the virtual tycoon and has frittered away thousands of dollars in online gaming you might be able to claim reimbursement on the grounds that they deliberately misappropriated marital funds.