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More and more spouses are blaming the Internet for the break up of their marriages.

Two-thirds of lawyers meeting at an annual conference in Chicago said the Internet has played a significant role in divorces they had handled during the past year.

Meeting a new lover online and an "obsessive" interest in pornography were the top two problems cited in many Internet-related divorce cases. Other reasons that have led to the break down of marriages include excessive use of the Net and chat rooms.

"The computer is a great communications device. But spouses need to remember to communicate with each other as well," said J Lindsey Short Jr, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

While the Net is being blamed for some divorces, people's activities online are also being used to support a case against a spouse.

For instance, almost 80 per cent of those attorneys questioned said that incriminatory e-mails had been part of divorce proceedings, while 65 per cent said computer and financial spending records had been incorporated into divorce records.

"While I don't think you can say that the Internet is causing more divorces, it does make it easier to engage in the sorts of behaviours that traditionally lead to divorce," said Short. ®

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