Digital spying on your spouse is a bad idea

There’s a lot of cutting-edge technology available today that makes it easy to spy on someone — or for someone to spy on you.

Some programs enable people to “jailbreak” your phone and get past your anti-spyware protection. Once that protection is gone, other programs can give someone access to emails, text messages and call history. Then other programs can be used to encrypt your data and send it to an account where it can be accessed.

Unfortunately, the existence of such technology may tempt someone in a bad marriage to use it to spy on his or her spouse.  That could lead to evidence of infidelity, help dig up dirt for a custody case, or provide evidence that an ex is cohabiting with a new significant other, which the spying spouse could use to get out from under his or her alimony obligations.

But as tempting as it seems, it’s a very bad idea. For one thing, illegally obtained data could easily backfire in family court. Worse, you could end up facing criminal sanctions. That’s because of laws like the Federal Wiretap Act, which makes it a crime to use a machine to capture someone else’s communications without court approval.

In addition, a lot of states have “anti-stalking” laws, and digitally spying on your spouse might break these laws.  In some places, this could even get you jail time.

Assuming that you can go ahead and spy and then simply delete everything if your spouse finds out won’t work. First of all, deleted data can usually be recovered with the aid of a good computer forensics expert. Additionally, you’re engaging in “spoliation” of evidence, which will certainly hurt your custody or divorce case. Theoretically, if your spouse reports being hacked and the police investigate, you might even be considered as having obstructed justice, which can a crime in and of itself.

One recent case from New York illustrates how a suspicious spouse got himself in hot water. The husband, known in court documents as “Crocker C.,” installed spyware on his wife’s phone three weeks before filing for divorce. He wanted to gain an edge in divorce proceedings by intercepting communications between his wife, known as “Anne R.,” and Raoul Felder, her celebrity divorce lawyer.

Crocker may have gained access to as many as 200 emails before a computer expert that Felder and Anne hired for a different issue discovered the spyware.

The police have since seized all of Crocker’s computers and devices and they’re now being scoured for evidence that he intercepted his wife’s confidential communications. He’s also been found in contempt of court for trying to wipe all of his hardware.

In another case out of Texas, a man actually got four years in prison for using software called “SpyRecon” (which parents can use to monitor their kids’ smartphone use) on his wife’s phone.

Situations may exist where digital spying is OK. But if you’re feeling tempted, it’s critical to talk to an attorney first. If you suspect your spouse may be spying on you, give your lawyer a call to discuss your options.