By Melissa Johnson | Rose Law Group Reporter
We’ve all heard the story before – they were suspicious of marital cheating so they snooped. They hacked accounts and found hard evidence so they want to separate. Now you want to know if that evidence can be used in court.
Technology and social media are so prevalent these days, no wonder it’s the reason one in seven people said they have considered divorce because of their spouses’ questionable activity (Huffington Post). The number of couples that have actually followed through is a little fuzzy, but it’s still probably higher than anyone with a heart would like to see.
But now that you have that evidence and you’re ready to move forward, it’s important you meet with an attorney to discuss your situation in full, especially if you have a pre-nuptial agreement in place. It’s not uncommon for pre-nups to include clauses relating to infidelity, but it’s key to have that hard proof for it to be used to your advantage. Pre-nups can also have clauses about what you can and cannot post or do with social media material. Some couples put a separate, stand-alone agreement in place dictating what can and cannot be posted online, and how that material may be used.
Rose Law Group Family Law Attorney Kelly Mendoza told Rose Law Group Reporter, “It is oddly not uncommon for cheating spouses to leave an easily accessible electronic trail, whether that be by postings on social media or text messages and e-mails that do not get deleted, leaving all the evidence needed there for the taking, and if a prenuptial agreement does have a clause relating to infidelity or social media usage, this evidence would be admissible in a family court proceeding.”
The water gets muddy when it comes to how you got the evidence. If it’s clear as day, and you’re able to see the information from your own social media accounts, the evidence is definitely useable in court. In fact, 81percent of members from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers report using or confronting information pulled from various social media sites. Ideally, you should talk to your attorney prior to doing any digging of your own so he or she can implement alternate ways that don’t violate federal or state laws to get the information you’re seeking.
There are also cyber stalking laws in place that you can potentially break. A person commits stalking if the person intentionally or knowingly engages in a course of conduct that is directed toward another person, and if that conduct causes the person to fear for themselves or their immediate family (ARS 13-2923).
“You also want to make sure you don’t accidentally violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 USC 1030,” Chairman of Rose Law Group Cyber Law Department Chris Ingle told Rose Law Group Reporter. “The act makes it a crime to violate a Website’s terms of service, which generally includes things such as misrepresenting your identity to the Website, or accessing another person’s account without permission, Ingle said.
“Although legislation has been introduced in Congress to amend that portion of the law (H.R. 2454, S. 1196), at last report that bill had been stalled in committee because of lobbying efforts by software maker Oracle.”
While it’s not this article’s purpose to provide individual marital advice, taking the high road seems to be the safest and most noble route one can take. Sure, social media promote an environment full of opportunities that might not exist otherwise, which can lead to jealousy and affairs, but if you’re suspicious, the best option is to just talk through it together before you start snooping and find yourself in hot water with the law.