CELL PHONES, COMPUTERS AND SOCIAL MEDIA
Social media and cell phones belong to almost every person in America and they are full of useful information when building a case against your spouse. They can also provide harmful information.
Just remember that you should not delete, destroy or edit any electronic information, even if harmful. Further, a lawyer should not take such altered evidence into his possession. Here are the main topics that you need to know:
1. Cell Phone Security
Text messages are actually the most prominent evidence in divorce proceedings (read a brief overview of the legal process). Text messages are often sent during times of extreme emotions and can potentially be very embarrassing to one of the parties to a divorce.
Texts are usually not well thought out and are more responsive to the moment. Texts can be downloaded and printed. Also, they can be used against you, so don’t give your spouse any information that could hurt you.
If you do not want a Judge or jury to see what you have written, don’t write it!
Also, watch out where you leave your phone, especially if you do not have it locked with a password. Further, make sure that you have changed your passwords for any and all devices.
Cell phone records can be fruitful when trying to establish that someone has a relationship with someone else. Look at the records to see if you can find multiple calls to an unknown number. Be aware that some cheating spouses will list their lover under a different name and often of this opposite gender.
You could also try to look up any strange phone numbers through one of the many reverse lookup companies on the internet.
One note of caution: do not use your normal phone to be calling some of the numbers.
They may be to places that you do not want to have linked to your phone. Instead keep a pre-paid, separate phone dedicated just for these type of activities.
GPS location services can also be a gold mine of information. This survival guide is too short to give explicit advice about the possible criminal consequences of gathering some types of data without authorization, so I would just urge you to avoid doing anything questionable.
In other words, if your spouse is on their own plan or has taken security measures to keep you out, don’t break into their device to gather information. That could be a crime.
Don’t put recording devices or apps on their phone that will allow you to listen in on their conversations without them knowing. That too is illegal.
However, you can record any conversations in which you are an actual participate in the call. For example, recording phone calls between you and your spouse are OK.
One lesson to learn is to at least deactivate any GPS location services on your own phone. Call your provider if you have any questions, but don’t make it easy for your whereabouts to be tracked.
Even more scary are apps that allow someone to actually record any conversations that are within earshot of your phone. They could potentially be somewhere else and still listen to your private conversations.
2. Computers and Email Security
Emails are probably a close second to text messages as evidence in a divorce proceeding. Although email is probably more thought out that text messages, there is still a potential goldmine of information to be found.
But it is a two-edged sword in that while you may find some useful information to use against your spouse, there also could be harmful information for your own case.
When looking at email evidence, it can quickly become a criminal offense for interfering with an electronic communication. There can be both Federal and State consequences, so I personally advise a client to avoid even taking an action that could be questionable.
Just be safe and avoid intercepting any email communication of your spouse, even if you think you have consent.
Play it safe.
The main point is to protect your self by restraining yourself when it comes to electronic email and even what websites you are visiting. Remember, just because you erase something, whether an email or a website history, it can still be recovered by a computer tech.
There are numerous computer programs that can track everything you have done and every place you have visited.
You probably cannot even tell if you have some of these very sophisticated programs. Do not use a shared computer. Make sure you have changed all passwords. Seriously consider opening a new email just to handle any communications involving your divorce.
3. Social Media Security
I cannot tell you the number of times that I have found extremely prejudicial evidence just by checking Facebook or Twitter or one of the many other social media platforms.
Drug use, gang affiliation, child abuse, girlfriends, boyfriends and many other actions that can decide what will happen throughout a divorce can be found through social media.
Facebook even has location services and will date and time the posting.
Here is another lesson to be learned:
1) First of all, don’t make any harmful statements or take any questionable pictures; and
2) Don’t make your social media open to the public. Go into your privacy settings and make sure that you have made access to your posting only open to your friends. Further, make sure that you know any mutual friends as they could be helping to provide your spouse with information that could harm you.
The best advice is to just avoid saying anything about your divorce, your children and even your ex – especially anything that electronically or verbally in a public place.
Finally, I would also tell you to check any dating sites to see if your spouse has any such accounts set up. I have several clients that have been surprised to find their spouse on such sites.