Internet accessibility creates efficiency, convenience and entertainment for consumers. But for many, constant access dooms relationships. Uninterrupted social media, texting, online gaming and streamable movies and music can lead a person to become more engaged with virtual worlds than with the people around them.
A Huffington Post article discussed the fallout at family law courts that are seeing increased references to Internet addiction, cybersex, sexting and other marriage-damaging activities.
Relatively innocent online games like Candy Crush, FarmVille and World of Warcraft have resulted in some married individuals ignoring their responsibilities, causing spouses to count the hours that the game is dominating family life and resenting the effects.
In other situations, cyber relationships and sexting take on aspects of the infidelities that end marriages when cheating happens in person. A spouse that finds intimate email, text or social media exchanges may identify the behavior as infidelity and seek a way to end the marriage.
However, depending on where the couple lives, it may be difficult to obtain a divorce based on an affair that occurs in the virtual world. The author of the article notes that in Canada, for instance, cyber-cheating does not hold weight in a divorce proceeding. An estrangement resulting in a couple living apart for a year or more is, however, grounds for divorce. A person fed up with their spouse’s virtual cheating must move out for a year and establish separation before they can seek a way out of the marriage.
In the United States courts do recognize the detrimental effects a spouse’s excessive time spent on the Internet can have. The evidence doesn’t even have to include proof that an online affair has taken place. Simply demonstrating neglect is considered adequate reason to dissolve a marriage.
Courts have also considered online activities when deciding custody decisions. In those cases, it has been decided that the children’s needs were being set aside for online interests, including romantic pursuit.
Online gambling has also become a popular pastime. Gambling addiction resembles other compulsive behaviors where an individual prioritizes something to the detriment of responsibilities. They may choose to miss work, family commitments and other activities to spend time gambling.
Individuals wanting to protect their relationships can take steps to make sure that online activities remain on the periphery of family life. By setting a timer for Internet use or establishing certain hours that everyone is required to be offline, families can maintain positive experiences with technology.