Using Email, Texts, and Social Media in Divorce
People can accomplish almost any task using electronic communications and avoid talking to another person in numerous situations. At this point, telephone calls are the exception for many people, and even couples are conducting more of their relationship online and/or through texts and emails, rather than by phone conversations. Putting information out there in a more permanent medium is generally not an issue, but everything changes if a couple decides to divorce. Once divorce enters the realm of possibility, a spouse may be tempted to track the movements of the other person, particularly if infidelity, addictive behaviors, or other harmful activities are suspected, by monitoring emails, texts, social media posts, etc. This type of communication is now commonly presented as part of divorce cases, but problems can arise if a spouse uses underhanded methods to gain access. A spouse’s communications can contain powerful evidence that could help the other spouse support his/her position, but there are consequences to accessing accounts without authorization. A discussion of how electronic communications are used in divorce cases, and the repercussions of attempting to submit them as evidence when the information was obtained through surreptitious actions, will follow below.
How Electronic Information Is Used
There is no real limit to the use of electronic communications and information, as long as they are relevant in a case. However, in the context of divorce, a spouse will generally seek to submit this type of evidence to establish key facts about a spouse’s behavior or to refute claims made by the other side. Examples of common reasons a spouse would want to introduce electronic communications include:
- To show a spouse was at a particular place on a specific date or at a specific time, which can be useful in child custody disputes related to the exercise of parenting time;
- To reveal a spouse’s state of mind;
- To show collaboration between two people, particularly when infidelity is alleged; and
- To contradict a spouse’s statements, such as attendance at counseling or claims by a spouse he/she is no longer engaging in substance abuse.
Consequences of Obtaining Communications Without Authorization
Privacy concerns and limitations on accessing information depends upon the source of the electronic communication. Social media accounts, because they are generally in the public domain, are not given as much protection as emails, texts, etc. Thus, as long as a spouse did not log-in into an account without permission and delete or alter posts, the information posted is fair game for use in a divorce case. This liberal approach to social media as evidence illustrates why these accounts should be used sparingly, if at all, while a divorce case is ongoing. When it comes to email accounts and other electronic communication options accessed through a computer or smart phone, the rules are more restrictive. Hacking into an account or intercepting an electronic communication, such as recording a phone call, is a violation of State and federal law. The consequences of these actions could be dire and include criminal prosecution and a civil lawsuit for damages by the other spouse. As for the divorce case, any evidence illegally obtained is automatically inadmissible, and will not benefit the spouse that went to such great lengths to obtain it.
Talk to a Florida Divorce Attorney
Gathering information to prove your position in a divorce case is a pivotal part of achieving your goals. However, how that information is secured is just as important as how it is used to ensure the law is being followed and the evidence will be considered by a court. The attorneys at the All Family Law Group, P.A. handle all matters related to divorce and family law, and can help you get the evidence you need in the appropriate manner. Contact the Tampa divorce and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-672-1900 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
by Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+