Everywhere you look today there seem to be warnings about protecting online identity, whether it relates to passwords, bank accounts or altering the delivery date of a new house purchase. Everything appears to be cyber linked with the idea that life is simpler all round – our health, our wallets and even our hearts can all be monitored and maintained with the help of online portals. Social Media is a super cyber-highway that makes even the most personal aspects of our life available to all and anyone who may choose to view it. All of which is fine, as long as there are no complications with this that could affect our lives.
Bring divorce into the picture and very quickly things can deteriorate to a deeply distressing level, with cyber stalking and harassment having the potential to become highly volatile and emotionally explosive matters. Vengeance and jealousy are familiar issues to every divorce lawyer as warring parties have the potential to become extremely contentious, with emails, text messages and the highly active social media forums of Twitter and Facebook being used as sources of evidence in a lot of cases nowadays.
Cybercrime has been around for some years and the internet has become an extremely dangerous tool in relation to this; one that is frequently abused, particularly in divorce cases. Being able to sit behind a screen and anonymously attack another person in the heat of the moment, creates trails of hate and malicious communication that can have huge consequences. It seems so easy to sit alone, at a computer, voraciously posting about someone who is a target, but publishing an anonymous hate message online is no different to any other venomous form of communication.
Moves To Make Us Safer
With the Government now beginning to tighten up the laws surrounding cybercrime, it is an important area that must be carefully evaluated when progressing with a divorce or beginning legal proceedings.
Today, spying on spouses using technology has become big business, with people now easily able to entrap other parties through various technical methods. There are plenty of solicitors who will warn of the legal implications and ensuing issues that can arise should those fighting each other choose to go down this route. Likewise, this is not something that this firm endorses, and naturally we have seen the detrimental aspects that have the ability to really change lives.
All too often the emotion of divorce will overcome one party or the other, with the desire for vengeance quick to surface. In some cases threatening or violent behaviour can follow, which leaves the target in an exceptionally vulnerable position and the stalker open to serious charges from the Police. Today, stalking someone through the advanced technology we now have at our disposal is sadly quite easy, with financial statements, GPS locations and even false identities simply created by the truly dedicated cyberstalker. Victims rarely realise that anyone associated with them can also be tracked by those resolute in their desire to cause suffering.
For the Benussi & Co team, we have all seen varying shades of harassment to some clients over the years, along with the devastating effect that it has on those who have been victims. Being a relentless target has huge consequences emotionally, and as a consequence, physically, with the legal procedures to gain restraining orders not always terribly swift to put in place. When this can also start to affect children, the issues become even more complicated.
A Sensible Solution
As lawyers, we see the confidence of clients diminish as the feelings of isolation and humiliation augment. People become fearful and anxious as they are exposed to angry online attacks, sometimes by ‘pillars of society’ who would never be questioned or admonished by those who have ‘known’ them socially.
Helen Benussi, Solicitor, Benussi & Co comments “With technology becoming more advanced by the day, it is important for people to know that there are boundaries that should not be crossed. We always urge clients to be cautious regarding online activity in social media forums, particularly as this can have a bigger affect on other innocent parties from a marriage, such as children.
Online activity is a busy, and in some cases highly addictive arena, that can hold very serious reverberations for those perpetrating online crime. We have seen it many times and it is heartbreaking to watch clients feel so helpless. Beyond the divorce proceedings we aim to provide useful avenues of support for our clients and their families, all of whom may be suffering from online bullying and stalking.
For this reason, this year, we will be supporting three very important causes that are committed to reducing the effects of cyberbullying, as well as associated mental health issues. We want to offer viable support networks for clients. Additionally, we want to show solidarity with organisations and charities that are committed to stopping online harassment.
“When facing divorce, separation, domestic abuse or other family difficulties, the right advice and support is essential from skilled professionals who are experienced at resolving the kind of disputes that arise when couples separate.
Resolution’s 5500 members are family lawyers committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes. Our members follow a Code of Practice that promotes a non-confrontational approach to family problems. Our members encourage solutions that consider the needs of the whole family – and in particular the best interests of children.”
We have a longstanding relationship with Resolution, with Diane Benussi being one of the founding members of the Birmingham division and a previous Chairman for 3 years.
The Royal Foundation : Heads Together and Cyberbullying Taskforce
With divorce creating a myriad of unforeseen issues as it plays itself out in an emotional battlefield, The Royal Foundation has developed a number of platforms that complement the type of support this firm believes in, by trying to provide support to victims who find themselves targeted or unable to cope.
Mental health issues can be created and/or exacerbated by divorce, whilst cyberbullying creates its own terrifying and debilitating demons, that are sometimes so hard to discuss.
The hope that there are solutions to the problems that divorce can create, with a positive overall desire for a better future for the next generation is a continuing priority for this practice.
“The helpline (a non Charity) is a Voluntary Organisation, is a household name and continues to provide practical and timely support to both adults and children; those bullied in the community, the home, the playground and/or the workplace. In fact the helpline is unique and today it is the only organisation of its kind run by qualified HR professionals.”
We always hope that Family Law matters can move forward as amicably as possible, however we fully appreciate that this is not always possible for some.
Should anyone wish to discuss issues we’ve raised then please contact us on: 0121 248 4001. Your call will be completely confidential.