Divorce 2.0: When the internet becomes a weapon
Social networks and email can help take the pressure off couples going through divorce. However, a recent American study found that they are increasinlgy used as weapons by warring couples.
A group of researchers at the University of Missouri examined the methods of communication used by around 50 divorcing couples. They found that those going through an acrimonious divorce often used technology as a weapon to manipulate the other person or hide information. These tactics were mainly to limit the ex’s access to children from the relationship, so the children suffered more as a result of the split.
Some parents in the study admitted to pretending not to have received emails from their exes. “Technology can really help couples who are divorcing to get along but it can also help them not get along at all,” said the leader of the study, Lawrence Ganong. “Communicating via the internet effectively can make childcare arrangements much easier and in this way avoid causing unnecessary suffering for the children.”
Couples who are on good terms, for example, use the internet to coordinate joint custody of their children. The study revealed that amicably divorced parents used online calendars as an easy way of to sharing information about their children’s activities.
“Emails are also a very good tool for divorced parents who are not on such good terms and don’t speak to each other. Writing everything down allows them to communicate important information to each other while still avoiding conflict,” said Ganong. “This means both parties can have a written record of all agreements too.”
Online activity can also have far-reaching consequences in divorce cases. Studies have shown that the ex’s Facebook activity is now often cited as grounds for divorce in many countries. American lawyers sometimes use individuals’ Facebook profiles to prove adultery, for example. In the UK, 33% of divorce cases in 2011 made some kind of reference to Facebook – either to prove unfaithfulness or provide evidence of the other partner badmouthing their ex online.
Source: Communication Technology and Postdivorce Coparenting, Lawrence H. Ganong et al, Family Relations, August 2012
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