By Amanda S. Trigg email@example.com
A friend's Facebook status recently said: "Teaching the 8 year old about Pokémon Go is grounds for divorce, right?" As a divorce lawyer, was I supposed to "like" this? Answering it seemed out of the question. I have no idea whether, in the state where she lives, the unilateral decision to introduce a child to the maddening phenomenon of hunting and catching cyber creatures all day long, everywhere she goes, would be "extreme cruelty" or "irreconcilable differences" or any other legal reason for ending a marriage. It was an occupational hazard, though, to seriously consider the what my answer would be. After turning it over in my head for a few days, I decided that the answer was definitely, “possibly, yes!”
Before you ask, my teenager is playing Pokémon Go great enthusiasm and I admit that I will take a detour or make a special stop so he can catch them. So this is not about whether I approve or disapprove of Pokémon Go (or whether I actually enjoying this regression to his early childhood love of Pikachu, which included a Pokémon themed birthday party). The underlying question is whether my friend should have been consulted by her husband before he decided to enlighten their child about the game.
We usually say that all major decisions involving a child's wellbeing must be jointly decided if parents have joint legal custody. Until the 21st century, that meant medical decisions, educational plans, religious upbringing and other big ticket items that would have long-term effects upon a child. Discipline could be within the scope and if so, permission should be as well. Pokémon Go raises questions of a child's independence, if you let him go out hunting in your neighborhood on foot or on bike. For some parents, that is unthinkable or unprecedented due to real concern about unsupervised children’s safety. Changing that standard should, in my opinion, be the subject of a conversation between the parents.
Playing Pokémon Go requires use of a cell phone with internet access and locator services. When to give a child access to portable technology definitely constitutes a major decision; just ask any divorced parent who has fought over when the kids get their own cell phones. Other parents struggle over what video games to let their children play based upon the manufacturer’s ratings. Pokémon Go is the perfect storm because it indicates a child’s presence on the internet, including his/her location so that “nearby” game features are revealed. What could more obviously impact a child’s long-term well-being in 2016? Again, therefore, letting a child be out in cyberspace as a gamer should be discussed between parents.
Connecting the dots, I believe that a deliberate refusal to communicate about children can be part of a pattern of behavior which could lead to the conclusion that the adults have irreconcilable differences, at least. For that reason, one parent’s decision to let a child play a game like Pokémon Go could, combined with other behavior, possibly be grounds for divorce. The friend who originally posted this, by the way, knows I am quoting her in this blog.
Now that I’ve settled this in my mind, I want to know whether a Pokémon, once caught, is marital property and whether once trained they have higher value for purposes of dividing that property in a divorce. But right now, it’s time to go hunt for Pokémon.
This post first appeared on www.letstalkaboutdivorce.com, the blog for the Family Law Department of Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich & Trigg, LLC. If you or someone you know has questions about marriage, family law or divorce, please contact me. 201-488-1161 or firstname.lastname@example.org I will always treat BCPWN referrals with great care.