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Divorce and cyberstalking

A lot of people lurk on social media. You may even jokingly admit to stalking someone by scrolling through Facebook posts or looking up friends of friends. Maybe you went on a date and returned home to check out the person's Twitter account. It's harmless, right?

You may have thought so then, but now that you are in the middle of a divorce, you are not so sure. Understandably, your spouse was not happy about your decision to file for divorce. However, certain online behaviors may have you wondering if you should worry for your safety.

Anger or illness?

What you are experiencing may be cyberstalking. One study showed that about 1 million women and 400,000 men claim to be victims of stalking every year. While online stalking may seem less harmful than physical stalking, you may still live with the fear of not knowing what will happen next.

If your spouse never before displayed signs of being mentally unstable, it's possible he or she is simply acting out of the hurt and anger from the separation. However, this is not something you may want to brush off as an emotional outburst. Cyberstalking can have very real consequences.

Escalation and danger

Your former spouse may begin by sending you emails or messages through social media. You may see that your spouse has friended your friends and comments on their pages. If your spouse had access to your passwords or phone account while you were married, he or she may compromise your privacy. Cyberstalkers often access their victims' photos or personal data and share them online or send them to employers. The point is to terrorize you and cause as much humiliation for you as possible.

In nearly 70 percent of reported cyberstalking cases, the stalker escalated from online contact to physical violence. If your spouse begins making threats or showing up in places where you did not expect him or her, your safety may be in danger. Cyberstalkers are frequently obsessive, so once your stalker begins, it may be difficult to stop.

Protection and advocacy

One way to protect yourself from unwanted internet contact from a former or soon-to-be-former spouse is to file for a restraining order. This will require documentation of the excessive contact and any threats you received from your spouse. While you may feel tempted to delete those frightening or embarrassing messages, they may go far in convincing a Florida court to establish a boundary between you and the person who is harassing you. An attorney can help you collect the evidence you need and represent your situation before a judge.

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