Divorce and Modern Surveillance

Posted by Laura Robbins, Esq. on July 15, 2013 


A spouse's decision to ask for a divorce is never easy, and is often met with opposition from the other spouse. Many compare the emotions spouses go through in a separation or divorce to that of a death - denial, anger, and depression are common emotions felt by both spouses, regardless of whose decision it was to leave the marriage.

Anger seems to be the emotion which affects divorce litigation (and sometimes a resulting child custody action) the most. When a spouse is angry, he or she will often look for some shred of evidence to indicate the other spouse is 'deficient' in some way - either to deny that spouse the right to enjoy custodial periods of time with his or her children, or to show that the spouse is unworthy of obtaining spousal support and/or an equitable financial settlement.

It is important to know how to protect yourself if you are divorcing your spouse, and thus important to know the most popular methods 'angry' spouses employ in order collect information he or she believes is relevant:

1. Email records: Often when spouses marry, they may either share an email account or allow each other access to their account by sharing their password(s). It is important to protect your email account while going through a divorce, because for some spouses, this is the first place they look to obtain evidence. Emails which may have seemed innocuous when they were written (for example, a flirtatious comment to a co-worker or a vent about your children) can take a sinister tone when entered into evidence by the other spouse.

Therefore, my suggestion is this - if you are going through stormy waters with your spouse, it is best to change your passwords and security questions to your email account(s). You will need to protect your privacy as much as possible when dealing with your divorce.

2. Private Investigators: For those with some money to burn (or at least, access to money to burn), the bitter spouse may hire a private investigator. The main motive here is usually to catch the other spouse with a lover. Many people believe that if their spouse can be caught with another lover, this is the 'smoking gun' which will help win a custody case. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. While true that the Court is concerned with who each parent chooses to expose their children to, it is very common for a soon to be ex spouse to have another partner in the 21st century. Unless this lover has a criminal record or other blemishes on his or her reputation, the worst case scenario is usually that the Court may ban the other parent from having their children around the new lover for a while.

3. Text messages and Phone Lines: It usually makes financial sense for families to have some type of cell phone sharing plan - for example, purchasing one cell phone plan and adding lines onto that plan to cut down costs. Unfortunately in a divorce, if you are on the same plan as your spouse, it is very easy to monitor all calls and text messages from your line. Not only can your spouse call into the cell phone provider and request detailed statements, but your spouse can also register your cell phone number online and monitor your calls and text messages on a daily basis via the internet.

Thus, although costlier in the short term, it may be wise to sever your phone plan with your spouse, and request your cell phone provider place a password on your account, in order to protect access to your account.

4. Social Networks: A majority of high conflict divorce and/or custody cases typically involve allegations from both sides resulting from posts on online social networks. The most common issues stem from online dating profiles and comments or pictures posted on networks such as facebook or twitter.

Regarding online dating, it is not the wisest decision in the world to post pictures of yourself with your children, especially if you are going through child custody litigation. The other parent typically takes offense to this and feels that you are putting your children at risk to online predators.

Additionally, it is quite common for spouses to vent about their divorce on online forums such as facebook or twitter. Unfortunately, even if you are very careful about your privacy settings, there is no guarantee that you don't have a mutual friend with your spouse as your own facebook friend or twitter follower. I have often seen facebook printouts of inappropriate comments that my client desires to use as evidence against their spouse, and sometimes this can be very relevant evidence.

Thus, before you even file paperwork to divorce your spouse, be careful. What you do, and what you put on the internet, could be found by your soon to be ex spouse and used against you in Court.


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