Technology plays an ever present role in divorce actions, but whether or not that is always a good thing is up for debate. Public posts on social media can be used as evidence in divorce trials, and there are apps to make co-parenting easier. As you can see, technology can be a useful tool, but it also has its downsides. A growing concern surrounds the act of spying and surveillance during divorce actions.
A Decision of Interest
Earlier this month, the Honorable Jeffrey S. Sunshine issued a decision in the high net worth divorce action of Coulson v. Resnik. Coulson, the Plaintiff in the action, was accused of spying on his wife by installing spyware on her cell phone. This technology allowed him to listen in on his wife’s phone conversations with her attorney, read her e-mail, and keep tabs on her location.
In his February 5th decision, Justice Sunshine said Coulson’s conduct and actions offended the “semblance of judicial integrity”. According to the decision, Coulson’s behavior should cost him any claim to Resnik’s tobacco heiress fortune.
Feuding spouses involved in contested divorces spy on their exes for many different reasons. The most common reasons why spying occurs are:
- Evidence of bad and neglectful parenting
- Proof of hidden assets
- Evidence of adultery
- Any information that may be useful in their case
- To hurt or harass their ex-spouse
Is Spying on a Spouse Illegal?
There are multiple ways for litigants to spy on their ex, some of which are legal. The others? Not so much. Unless there is an Order of Protection in place that forbids one party from interacting with the other, simply browsing social media is not illegal. It is legal to Google the other party, as well.
Serious problems arise when a person uses more technologically savvy methods to spy on their ex during their divorce. Installing spyware or key-logging software on a computer or cellphone, like Coulson did, can be illegal. According to the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act, it is illegal to access someone’s personal email or private social media accounts without their authorization.
New York State has a “one-party consent” law in place to help thwart wiretapping. This means that one party to a private conversation must consent to being recorded. The same thing applies to surveillance cameras video recordings. Eavesdropping on phone conversations, or secretly recording an ex-spouse is a Class A Felony.
How can you tell if you’re Being Spied On?
Technology is advancing at a rapid speed. Recording devices are small, wireless, and can be hard to notice. Despite this, there are ways you can tell if you’re being spied on during divorce.
- You notice that your browsing history is incorrect
- Your passwords have changed
- You hear clicking noises, or echoes while you’re on the phone
- Your spouse routinely shows up wherever you are, or knows your location
- Your ex mentions details from private conversations or communications you have had with other parties
Illegally spying on a spouse during a divorce case is a very serious issue. As attorneys, we cannot stress this enough. You must take immediate action if you believe that your ex is accessing your private accounts, or recording your phone conversations, without your consent.
- Perform a virus scan on your computer
- Change all of your passwords, and create a new email address
- Make all social media accounts private
- Call the police if you believe you are being followed
- Be cautious, trust your instincts
Hire an Attorney ASAP
Spying on a spouse during a divorce case has extreme consequences for all parties involved. If you believe that your ex is taking measures to monitor your communications or whereabouts, you must take immediate action.
The family law firm of Brian D. Perskin & Associates P.C. specializes in difficult and contested divorce cases. Our experienced team of attorneys tirelessly fight for the safety of our clients and their families. For more information on how we can assist you, contact us at 718-875-7584, or click here to schedule your free consultation.