Digital Age Divorce Advice: Is It Legal to Find a Cheater or Hidden Assets?
Posted on May 02, 2012 by Dishon & Block
In this very digital age, divorce has become much more transparent. Couples even a few years ago could live their lives quite anonymously (can you say affair?) while stashing money on the side for any troubling possibility.
Not so much anymore. With all records going digital and with cameras on every smart phone, our lives are rather clear. So how do you protect yourself against any treachery and what is legal and what’s not when it comes to “spying” on your spouse?
Firstly, make certain to get some good legal advice from a reputable family law lawyer, especially if you are a high-income earner, investor or property owner. Some of the first steps towards a separation or divorce (and certainly in the case of a cheater and liar!) are critical when it comes to bank accounts, co-parenting and who is going to keep the house.
But the question remains: Is it legal to find a cheater whether it be an extramarital affair or “hidden” assets?
It is Legal to Find a Cheater?
It used to be that husbands and wives hired a private detective to uncover anything seedy or untrustworthy about a spouse. Today, husbands and wives are surfing the net and social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to discover any hidden activity.
Sometimes called “electronic discovery” in the legal community, “spying” on your spouse via his or her digital life is coming into the courtroom as evidence in divorce cases more often than not.
Some spouses even go so far as to install “spyware” software. But is installing spyware on someone’s computer so you can analyze their every key stroke even legal? If the computer is “shared,” then it is, in most cases, legal. But if the digital device is expressly used by one spouse and protected by passwords, then a spyware attack could be deemed illegal or at least unsavory.
In fact, divorce lawyers and their clever research experts use something called “advanced research tools” to sort through digital evidence in preparation for divorce cases. Computer hard drives are a treasure trove of information from passwords to bank statements to credit card bills to PayPal accounts to emails. And, yes, all of this information can potentially be used against you in a divorce case.
Still, the law has not caught up with the ever-evolving digital lifestyle. And this is another reason to consider hiring a qualified divorce lawyer who is knowledgeable not only about technology, but about the latest in family and criminal law. Why? Because newfangled things such as hacking and spyware laws can vary considerably in each state and even in a particular family law court.
And remember, tainted evidence is never a good idea in court. Sure, you got your hands on your spouse’s hidden investment account, but you got it through potentially illegal means (spyware). Not only is it possible to go to jail over such an offense, but you may also lose a lot of credibility in the judge’s eyes.
How do you get around the legal issue? Your lawyer can hire someone called a “forensic accountant.” This person can uncover – via advanced and focused searches – things like “hidden” pension funds, bank accounts and even entire businesses.
Digital devices have made divorce even more complicated and definitely more transparent. When considering divorce or in the middle of a challenging divorce battle, it’s best to get good legal advice or you may end up paying for your curiosity (or pay back) in the worst possible ways.
This article was posted in Divorce Tips & Advice.
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