If you are thinking about filing for divorce or if you are currently in the middle of divorce proceedings, you might want to think more carefully about your web presence. According to an article from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), about 81 percent of members have reported seeing an uptick in “the number of cases using social networking evidence.” Of all social networking sites, recently separated spouses tend to snoop on Facebook most frequently, but other social media platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter can also provide information about a person’s whereabouts or day-to-day practices. But when do practices of seeking information on the internet rise to the level of illegal forms of electronic snooping?
For any woman in the Chicago area who is in the process of getting divorced, it is important to understand what kinds of electronic snooping are permissible and which are illegal. It is also important to keep in mind that anything you post publicly on social media platforms may be accessible to your soon-to-be ex-spouse. As such, you should reexamine your web presence and the type of information you make available to avoid any issues in your divorce.
Any information that is available publicly—such as public pages on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter—may be fair game in a divorce and it is possible that information shared publicly can hurt you in your divorce settlement. For example, posting a series of photos can let your spouse and his or her attorney learn a lot of information about you, such as where you went on a specific day and who you spent time with on that day, which, depending on the issues involved, may negatively affect your case. Social media posts can also provide information about any major new purchases, such as a picture of you with a new sports car or a new expensive piece of exercise equipment, that could cause a potential issue with a financial settlement.
In addition to information that could be pertinent when it comes to property division, social media sites can also provide evidence in child custody cases, which are now known as cases in which “parental responsibilities” and “parenting time” are being allocated. If a photograph posted on social media depicts one of the parents in a manner that could hurt his or her chances for being able to make important decisions about the child’s well-being and upbringing, a judge’s ruling could be influenced.
Generally speaking, courts will allow evidence obtained from social media sites into divorce cases. How do courts view forms of electronic communication, such as texts or emails? If you have texts or emails exchanged between yourself and your spouse, it is important to keep records of these as they may end up being crucial to your divorce case. But how does the court handle electronic communications that you obtained without your spouse’s consent? For instance, what if you hacked into your spouse’s email (or vice versa) to get personal information?
Illinois has a computer fraud law (720 ILCS 5/) that makes it illegal to engage in any kind of electronic snooping that requires hacking into a person’s emails or computer data. In addition, recording cell phone conversations without your spouse’s consent can also be illegal. The same goes for video recordings of a spouse without his or her knowledge. This is where the line between legal snooping or record keeping is crossed and becomes illegal activity that you want to avoid as the consequences can extend beyond your divorce settlement.
If you have questions about the role of electronic snooping in divorce cases, the Women’s Divorce & Family Law Group can assist you in discussing your case.
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