The perils of digitally spying during divorce

Family law attorneys are finding that divorcing spouses are increasingly turning to popular smart devices and software programs to spy on each other. This includes spyware apps that can track financial activity and communications on personal computers, GPS trackers that can be surreptitiously placed on a vehicle to find out where their spouse has been and "security" cameras that can capture who is coming into their homes or what's going on inside them.

People may use these as a means of maintaining some control over an estranged spouse. Other times, the motivation comes out of jealousy or because they believe the evidence gathered will help them get a better divorce settlement or custody agreement.

If they can prove that their husband has far more money than he claims, he could be ordered to pay more alimony, right? If they can show that their wife has various men visiting her home throughout the week, she can't be awarded primary custody of the kids, correct? The truth is, there's no simple answer in any divorce.

Family law attorneys generally strongly discourage digital spying. For one thing, it's illegal to place spyware or other monitoring device on property that doesn't belong to you, whether it's a computer, car, telephone or home. It may also be considered stalking, which can place the person who did it in further legal jeopardy.

When the property is jointly owned, however, placing a device on it isn't illegal. However, that doesn't mean it's a good idea.

If you believe or have found evidence that your spouse has been spying on you digitally, it's essential to tell your family law attorney immediately before taking any action. For example, many people who've found spyware on their computers understandably but mistakenly turn them in and get new ones. That decision deprives them of the evidence that they were being spied on.

Evidence that's illegally obtained can't be used in your case. Even legally-obtained evidence may do your case more harm than good, based on the judge's view of how you obtained it. If you have evidence about your spouse that you've gained through digital spying and are considering using it, talk to your attorney.

Source: National Public Radio, "I Know Where You've Been: Digital Spying And Divorce In The Smartphone Age," Aarti Shahani, Jan. 04, 2018

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