Facebook and other social media sites have taken their fair share of blame for marital breakdown in recent years. If it is to be believed, a 2011 Daily Mail article suggested that Facebook activity was mentioned in a third of divorce petitions alleging unreasonable behaviour. But increasingly there’s reason to suspect that online gaming too is playing a significant role in separation and divorce.

We think this could be down to two things:

1. Online gaming friendships leading to real world meetings – Like Facebook, the world of online gaming is a virtual one. It’s easy for two gamers with a common interest to strike up a strong friendship quickly. And it will sometimes be a relationship with fewer boundaries than an acquaintance formed offline. We know that online meetings like these are very often just the first step toward a real word meeting and the start of what could turn out to be a relationship that could threaten a marriage.

2. Addiction to gaming that can destroy a relationship and lead to divorce – Online discussion forums are full of examples of how, like any addiction – from alcohol to drugs – gaming addiction can cause the destruction of a previously healthy relationship. Players of games like Minecraft, Call of Duty and World of Warcraft effectively substitute real-life for a virtual fantasy world. An American addiction centre has examined how gaming addiction develops. It’s not difficult to see how some of the factors the clinic lists could contribute to difficulties in a relationship. Difficulties that could ultimately lead to divorce.

For example:

  • The gamer thinks obsessively about the game, even when he or she is not online
  • More and more time is spent playing so that other activities and mutual interests are overlooked
  • If the gamer tries to reduce playing time he or she becomes moody, depressed and irritable
  • The gamer tries to hide the extent of his or her gaming activity
  • The gamer uses gaming as a distraction from his or her problems

Child Contact And Gaming

Intensive gaming can also have an impact after separation. One court clerk commented online that a husband’s gaming activity threatened court-approved child contact arrangements:
“as a courthouse clerk, I had a court order come across my desk that explicitly banned a father from playing Minecraft with his son over the internet because the ex-wife alleged that the in game chat was a form of improper contact that wasn’t outlined in their custody/visitation plan.”

In England and Wales one way to seek a divorce is the ‘unreasonable behaviour’ of a spouse. Whether a judge would view online gaming as behaviour that would justify granting a divorce depends on the particular circumstances of the case. At Brookman we advise on all aspects of divorce and separation. For advice please call us on + 44 (0)20 7430 8470 or contact us online.

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