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Birmingham AL Collaborative Divorce Law Blog

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Preparing to Divorce? Don’t Play “I Spy”

With the increase in accessibility of GPS technology, Spyware and other apps, you know longer need special spy equipment or to hire a private investigator to snoop on your spouse. Most smart phones and other mobile devices have the capability built-in. But just because you have the ability, should you use that technology? Experts say proceed with extreme caution.

“Increasingly, couples are turning to the latest technology to spy on each other as their marriages fall apart, according to dozens of divorce lawyers, investigators and even a leading family court judge whom NPR interviewed,” say National Public Radio (NPR) reporters Aarti Shahani and Lauren Silverman in a recent story that aired on All Tech Considered. “Tools are cheap and easy to use — from something as simple as the Find My iPhone feature to spyware that can be installed in a spouse's computer, phone, or even a car.”

Although it’s hard to know exactly how many couples spy on each other, a 2013 study conducted in the United Kingdom among more than 2000 adults found that 34% of women and 62% of men, admitted they had looked through the cell phone of a partner or ex-partner without their knowledge. But what they do with that knowledge can be a game-changer for those entering into divorce.

“Clients use it in an effort to stay in control after a separation or to gather evidence of extra-marital affairs or drug abuse,” reports Shanini. “But the laws are murky, and law enforcement is lagging far behind.”

Since the technology is often readily available on mobile devices (rather than a device installed expressly to monitor movement), it often is not deemed illegal. “A lot of parents are using apps to monitor their kids to try and keep them safe online,” says Silverman. “If you stop trusting your romantic partner, you can use those same tools on him or her.”

Having spyware itself is not a crime, but using it secretly on your spouse is illegal, says Shahani, who cautions that she is not an attorney and is not providing legal advice. “What courts have found is when a couple jointly owns a car, either person can have a GPS tracker in it and arguably that's legal,” Shahani says in an interview with NPR’s  Steve Inskeep. “But with smartphones, it's different. Even if you paid for the phone, it's considered such an intimate device it belongs to the person who's using it.”

While it’s important to be aware of the potential this technology has to be used against you, it’s equally significant to realize that using spyware and other forms of digital surveillance on your spouse may backfire in a very unpleasant way. Talk to your attorney about the ways you can safeguard yourself from such activity and follow these tips to End Your Tech Connection.

 


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