Cyberspying and Divorce in NC

A couple reading mobile phone and tablet in bed and man is concerned about cyberspying and divorce.

With the technology needed for spying readily available for purchase online, cyberspying and divorce can be a concern. When trust beaks down in a marriage, and divorce is imminent, cyberspying by one spouse on the other is not uncommon in this digital age. Technology that allows suspicious spouses to monitor email, internet activity, cellphone use is widely available and simple to implement.

How Can Cyberspying Be Used in Divorce?

Divorce can be contentious, and one spouse may engage in spying to obtain information for use against the other in divorce proceedings or a child custody dispute. In many cases cyberspying is illegal, and illegally obtained evidence cannot be used in court. Even so, it may lead the suspicious spouse to other sources of information that can be accessed digitally.

If you suspect that your spouse is spying on you, or if you are in possession of information obtained against your spouse, your best course of action is to consult with an experienced attorney. At Charles R. Ullman & Associates, our seasoned Raleigh divorce lawyer can advise you on protecting yourself against cyberspying on the part of your spouse. You should also discuss with us any information you may have obtained on your spouse or might attempt to obtain in the future to avoid the possibility of criminal or civil liability.

Types of Cyberspying

As discussed in a Wall Street Journal article, snooping technology is on the rise in divorce. Powerful, magnetized, match-book sized GPS tracking keys for $179, easily installed IM and email copying software for less than $100, and tiny recorders for eavesdropping are some of the available spying items listed in the article. Spying spouses have a variety of inexpensive, easy-to-use, high-tech snooping methods at their disposal.

Cell Phone Spyware

Spyware, such as PhoneSheriff ($79 per year) or MySpy ($199.99 per year) is marketed to parents for monitoring their children’s iPhone, iPad or iPod. PhoneSheriff can be used without jailbreaking and it allows parents to view their children’s text messages, contacts, call history, photos, Safari bookmarks, and GPS locations. Parents (or spying spouses) need only ensure that the iCloud backup is turned on and associated with the spy’s Apple ID in the device being monitored.

With MySpy, the snooping spouse can read every keystroke typed by the user, track location and route history, view any photos and videos saved on the device, and generate comprehensive reports on the target phone’s use.

Email Spying and Divorce

Email spying software, such as Web Watcher PC Monitoring Software is inexpensively marketed to parents and employers ($99.95) and can also be used to spy on a spouse. Web Watcher claims that this software, which can be easily installed in 5 minutes, is 100% invisible and tamper proof, and it gives the user the ability to read emails, IMs, social network messages and chats, website searches and history, and more. It has the added feature of “alert word” highlights and screenshots each time a particular word selected by the viewer (such as the name of the spouse’s suspected paramour) is typed or viewed on the screen by the user.

Although technology is available for spying, spouses can often accomplish this task without relying on these advanced programs. A suspicious spouse may learn or guess a password and access email that way, or pick up and peruse messages on a phone left lying around. Depending on how it is obtained, email evidence may or may not be admissible in a divorce.

Computer Spyware and Divorce

Spyware is software or hardware installed on a computer without the knowledge of the user for the purpose of monitoring its use. It can be employed to access and record any kind of activity on a computer, including financial record accessing, attorney-client privileged correspondence, and personal communications. Key loggers, such as KEYKatcher are easily and cheaply available in hardware or software form and allow a cyber-snoop to view every keystroke made by the user. It is not uncommon for soon-to-be-divorced spouses to utilize this technology in an attempt to gain an advantage in divorce.

Surveillance Bugs

Disturbing as it may be to the spouse under surveillance, a mistrustful spouse can easily purchase and install a tiny, unobtrusive, matchbook-sized device in any room, enabling him or her to listen in clearly and remotely on any conversation occurring in that room. Fortunately for those who fear they are being spied on by a spouse, counter-surveillance products and services are also available.

GPS Tracking Devices for Spying

Dozens of GPS tracking surveillance devices are available online for a relatively low cost. Land Air Sea’s GPS Tracking Key, for example, is available on Amazon for around $115. It mounts magnetically anywhere on the vehicle and provides a complete travel history and location within 2.5 meters. Although these devices are promoted for fleet vehicle and teen-age driver tracking, spying spouses can also use them to track the movements of soon-to-be-ex-spouses.

Is Spying Legal in Divorce?

As stated in an article in USA Today, increasingly common cyberspying by wives and husbands on their spouses is an aspect of divorce that is evolving too rapidly for laws to keep pace. Depending on the circumstances, this type of snooping could be a criminal violation of the federal Wiretap Act or the North Carolina Electronic Surveillance Act.

According to the Wall Street Journal article, not all courts agree on what a “reasonable expectation of privacy” is in a marriage. Of the 13 U.S. circuit courts, the article reports that at least 5 have ruled that surveillance within marriage is prohibited by the federal Wiretap Act, and at least 2 have ruled that it is not.

The Raleigh Divorce Attorneys at Charles R. Ullman & Associates

If you suspect that your spouse is using technology to spy on you, it is likely your top priority to get rid of the spyware and/or surveillance and tracking devices as soon as possible. Professional help is available to accomplish this, and tips on fighting spyware are available from online sources such as PCWorld.

It is also important to consult with a knowledgeable divorce attorney as soon as possible if you find yourself in this situation. Our founding attorney at Charles R. Ullman & Associates is certified by the North Carolina State Bar as a Family Law Specialist. He has been practicing law since 1993, and his practice is focused exclusively on family law matters. Contact our firm to schedule a consultation.

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Last updated: April 14, 2015

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