Is the Internet Bad for Your Marriage? Online Affairs, Pornographic Sites Playing Greater Role in Divorces

Nov 14, 2002, 00:00 ET from American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers

    CHICAGO, Nov. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Finding a new love interest online and
 excessive interest in pornographic sites by one spouse are the most frequent
 reasons for Internet-related divorces, according to the nation's top divorce
 attorneys.
     Almost two-thirds of the attorneys at the annual meeting here of the
 American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the nation's top 1,600 divorce and
 matrimonial law attorneys, say the Internet has played a significant role in
 divorces they have handled during the past year.
     "The computer is a great communications device.  But spouses need to
 remember to communicate with each other as well," said J. Lindsey Short, Jr.,
 president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
     In addition, incriminatory e-mails and subpoenas of hard drives, financial
 records and chat room discussions are increasingly becoming part of divorce
 proceedings.
     Some 350 members of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers are
 meeting here this week.  Sixty-two percent of those surveyed said that the
 Internet had played a significant factor in divorce cases in their practice
 last year.
     The problems most cited by the attorneys were:
 
     -- Met new love interest over the Internet  (68 percent)
     -- Obsessive interest in pornographic sites (56 percent)
     -- Excessive time on computer (47 percent)
     -- Excessive time communicating in chat rooms (33 percent)
     -- Excessive time on the computer for work (2 percent)
 
     Almost 80 percent of the attorneys said that incriminatory e-mails had
 been part of divorce proceedings, while 65 percent said computer and financial
 spending records had been incorporated into divorce records.
     "While I don't think you can say that the Internet is causing more
 divorces, it does make it easier to engage in the sorts of behaviors that
 traditionally lead to divorce," according to Short.
     The nation's divorce attorneys warn that while most states have no-fault
 divorce laws, marital malfeasance can play a role in custody, division of
 property and support payments.
     In addition, they warn that in trying to find electronic proof of a
 cheating spouse, spouses need to be careful not to violate federal and state
 wiretapping statutes.  While taking information from home computers to which
 both spouses have access probably does not violate any laws, to the extent
 e-mails are accessed through online accounts like America Online or Hotmail,
 or password-protected files are hacked into, laws very well may be violated.
     The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers is composed of the nation's
 top 1,600 attorneys who are experts in the specialized field of matrimonial
 law, including divorce, prenuptial agreements, legal separation, annulment,
 custody, property valuations, and support and the rights of unmarried
 cohabitors.
     The purpose of the Academy is to encourage the study, improve the
 practice, elevate the standards and advance the cause of matrimonial law.
 
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SOURCE American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers