In the period of time leading up to a divorce, a spouse may become suspicious and determined to prove a spouse's infidelity or betrayal. Many soon-to-be divorced people may go to extreme, and sometimes illegal, lengths to spy on a spouse in order to uncover any suspicious behavior to use against him or her in court. However, this behavior is turning family law concerns into a so-called arms race.
These days, it is easier than ever to purchase devices designed to record, track and monitor people without their knowledge. However, spouses going through a divorce are finding that these methods of surveillance are not always legal. Despite this, people continue to buy and use spyware and are bringing their findings to a courtroom.
However, state laws vary widely when it comes to spying on a spouse. Some states will permit a husband to read all of his wife's emails on an unsecured computer. Other courts find nothing illegal about a wife sticking a GPS tracking device on her husband's car. Then again, in some states, a spouse can be found guilty of violating federal laws by using a hidden camera in his or her home.
The fact that there are so many methods of spying on a person combined with varying views on what are "reasonable expectations of privacy" in a marriage makes this territory difficult to navigate. For suspicious spouses, confirmation that a husband or wife is being unfaithful outweighs any violation of privacy. However, for those who are being spied on, that violation of privacy can be extremely intrusive and hurtful.
Before making any purchases or decisions to track or spy on a spouse, it can be very helpful for people in California to speak with an attorney who understands the legal ramifications that may exist.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, "A Spy-Gear Arms Race Transforms Modern Divorce," Steve Eder and Jennifer Valentino Devries, Oct. 5, 2012