Addressing Internet Sexual Addiction In Divorce And Child Custody Cases
The internet can be both a blessing and a curse for people, depending upon how they choose to use it. The vast amounts of information stored online has changed the way the world operates, learns, and communicates. With the positive features of internet access comes the easy availability of sexual content, some of which is illegal to view and possess. Americans hold the right to freedom of speech, which includes viewing sexual content, but such behavior may have a substantial impact on the outcome of divorce and child custody proceedings if it is found to be disruptive or harmful. While it may seem unlikely one’s spouse or partner is engaging in these activities, studies have shown that upwards of 40 million Americans access these sites regularly. By numbers alone, these statistics indicate that more relationships involve this behavior than is generally believed. When a spouse discovers this behavior, and determines it is at least one issue undermining the foundation of the relationship, especially if it appears the other spouse has slipped into an addiction, divorce frequently follows. Any type of addiction that takes time away from family contributes to divorce, but the level of impact it may have on the outcome of legal proceedings depends upon the facts of a particular case. A discussion of how regular viewing of sexual content online may affect the outcome of divorce and child custody determinations will follow below.
Effect on Divorce
When a spouse discovers his/her other half is engaging in disturbing and unhealthy behavior, especially if it borders on an obsession or addiction, the common response is to feel betrayed and justified in seeking a divorce. If large amounts of internet pornography is involved, though, the impact can feel akin to adultery, and an issue that should be relevant in a divorce. However, Florida is a no-fault divorce State, which means it is not necessary to prove blame to obtain a dissolution, nor is fault even an issue when a court looks to grant a divorce. All that one must claim is an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, which can refer to innocuous problems, such as growing apart, to drug addition or multiple affairs. A judge typically is not interested in the back story of a divorce, and viewing internet pornography will normally not have an effect on the outcome, unless there is evidence the spouse drained marital funds or caused damage to the couple’s financial health in an effort to support this habit.
Implications for Child Custody
Turning to child custody, this type of behavior will attract much closer scrutiny from a judge as the court seeks to decide if an addiction-level need to view this content affected the parent’s ability to properly care for the child and/or if the behavior could hurt the child’s welfare or safety. In this situation, a court may appoint a psychologist to assess the past and probable future effect of regularly exposing the child to a parent that feels compelled to view this material. Some considerations that should be included in the evaluation include:
- Has the preoccupation with pornography resulted in the parent physically or emotionally neglecting the child?
- Has the time invested in the pornography habit damaged the parent’s relationship with the child?
- Has the parent’s behavior allowed the child to be exposed to high risk situations?
- Has the child been exposed to sexual material?
- Has the parent taken steps to prevent exposure?
- Is the parent willing to make behavioral changes?
Such an evaluation is intense, and requires interviews with both spouses and the child. An experienced family law attorney can assist with demonstrating the harmful effects a pornography habit has created for a family.
Addiction and abuse of any kind is damaging to a family, and if you are contemplating divorce because your spouse has an addiction issue, you need the advice of a knowledgeable family attorney about the best way to proceed. The attorneys at the office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. have the understanding and skill needed to fully and appropriately introduce this serious issue into your case, so you may obtain the best result possible. Contact the Fort Lauderdale office for a free consultation.