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Dubai: The case of a woman who left her husband because he chatted with women on WhatsApp and that of a man who divorced his wife because she posted her photos on Facebook are just two that reveal the flip side of the social media. A designated family reconciliation section at Dubai Courts deals with a weekly average of two cases involving couples struggling with suspicions about their partners.

The sureptitious use of smart phones and social media networks has given rise to a new form of infidelity and led to an increase in what has recently become known as "cyber infidelity", according to Abdul Salam Darwish, Head of the Family Guidance and Reconciliation Section at the Dubai Courts Department.

Feeding on suspicions

"Cyber infidelity does not have to physically mean that one of the spouses cheated the other," Darwish said. "There have been cases of divorce caused by the use of smart phones such as iPhones and BlackBerries and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter."

"We do not have specific statistics in that regard because our section offers guidance and reconciliation between spouses; the cases we deal mainly result from lurking suspicions among spouses that they have been cheated.

"We have had cases of wives claiming divorce because their husbands communicated with women on WhatsApp or BlackBerry Messenger and husbands filing for divorce because their wives interacted with men on Twitter or opened Face-book accounts or posted their photos without their permission," Darwish told Gulf News yesterday.

Darwish explained the role of the eight family counsellors with the court's special section.

"When our efforts reach a dead end, we refer them to the Sharia Court for divorce. Hence as part of our investigations and guidance sessions, we have come across an increase in cyber infidelity; we have had spouses claiming divorce due to growing suspicions that their partners are cheats.

"We do come across a case or two per week in which a spouse seeks divorce for a dispute that resulted from the use of smart phones and social media networks," he said.

The most recent case according to Darwish, who is the section's most senior marriage counsellor and religious scholar as well, was that of a woman who visited them seeking divorce because she discovered photos of other women on her husband's WhatsApp account.

The husband set a password for his iPhone but the wife cracked it and discovered the women's photos on his WhatsApp profile and she became suspicious that he was cheating on her.

Counselling helps

Citing another case, he said: "A husband wanted to divorce his wife after he discovered that she set up a Facebook account without his permission. He suspected her character because she added male friends. Due to suspicions, the husband divorced her. At later stages, we convinced them to reconcile and they returned to each other."

He added: "We cannot blame the smart devices or social networks, but it's the user who is to be blamed."