Is all fair when it comes to love and war? Not really—especially when you end up making some decisions that put you on the wrong side of the law in an attempt to find out what your soon-to-be ex-spouse is doing. Learn more about the limits of spying on your spouse.
You may have routinely opened your spouse's mail in the past with his or her permission. However, if things are rocky and your spouse has indicated that you need to keep out of his or her business, don't touch the mail. If the mail is addressed to you and your spouse, you can open it—otherwise, it's actually a federal offense.
The legality of recording someone's conversations can be tricky. Federal wiretapping laws allow you to record in-person conversations and telephone calls as long as one of the parties is aware of the recording. Your state laws may or may not agree. Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia allow so-called "one-party consent" recordings, while the remainder do not. That means that you can record a conversation you have with your spouse with his or her knowledge and consent all you want—but you may not be able to record a conversation without it.
You certainly can't record a conversation or phone call that you aren't supposed to hear because that violates both the federal law and all state laws. In other words, you can't put a tap on the phone to record conversations your spouse has with friends, and you can't tuck a voice-activated tape recorder under the seat in his or her car in the hopes that you'll gain some new information.
The laws regarding GPS tracking devices are a little complicated. In some states, if you own the car either solely or jointly with your spouse, you may be within your legal rights to install the device. It's generally illegal to install the device on a car that isn't in your name, however.
Computer And Cell Phone Monitoring
There are dozens of keystroke-monitoring and chatbox-recording programs out there, and they all make it sound like a great idea to use them to monitor the electronic actions of a cheating spouse—but using any of them can land you in serious trouble. So can snooping in your spouse's email, even if you can guess the password. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) makes it a federal offense to intercept or disclose someone else's private communications.
A lot of spouses going through a divorce hope to get information through spying that will be useful as "leverage" to get a better divorce settlement. They think that evidence of an affair or some other misbehavior might embarrass their spouse into agreeing to whatever terms they're offered. However, this can backfire, and they can end up being sued for invasion of privacy and even face criminal charges. Even if they find out something important—like the fact that their spouse is hiding funds somewhere—the information may be useless if it is illegally obtained. Rather than run these risks, talk to your divorce attorney before you decide to do any sleuthing. Your attorney can guide you on what is legal, or even important to your case.
For more information, contact Reagan, Melton, & Delaney LLP or a similar firm.