While recognizing the hurt that comes with the breakdown of a marriage, and recognizing that marriages may break down due to the inappropriate behavior or abuse by a spouse, some behaviors and activities will not be viewed kindly by the family courts, and may even run afoul of the law. Spying or snooping on a spouse’s social media or digital presence for “dirt” is one such behavior.
With the rise of social media, people lead their lives as much online as offline. Digital lives can be accessed and assessed all in one place—a phone or a computer—and offer a rich source of information that could only be gleaned through extensive investigation in the real-world. Digital devices also contain sensitive, intimate information and communications that may never see the light of a real-time, physical day. This is information—evidence of infidelity, bank statements and the location of assets, backlogs of abusive text messages to a spouse—that could prove very damaging to the owner in a divorce case.
It is easy then to understand why a spouse might be tempted to snoop on the other’s phone, hack into a messaging app, or download statements from a spouse’s singly-held bank account. These are temptations that are critical to resist, though, for one’s own legal and financial good.
On the one hand, electronic snooping might be liable to prosecution as wiretapping. Massachusetts has some of the strictest laws in the nation around consent in recording, requiring that everyone on a recorded line or other recording at least know they are being recorded, even if they do not explicitly consent. This extends to other forms of electronic communications. For spouses, there are extra protections on the privacy of marital communications, and potential extra penalties.
Additionally, a court may look unfavorably on snooping, and the victimized spouse and his or her counsel may be able to argue this is a form of spousal abuse. This could backfire, in the end, on the snooping spouse in the terms of the final divorce settlement.
In short, do not snoop on a spouse’s phone or computer, as satisfying as it might be to uncover extramarital affairs or asset hiding. Stick to that evidence which is publicly available on social media profiles, or, better yet, leave the process of legal discovery to competent counsel. Our office is staffed by lawyers skilled in the discovery process, along with all facets of divorce law. Call today to discuss your family’s particular needs.