Text Messages, Social Media and Other Electronic Data, Devices and Divorce Issues
Errant information about a person can exist in many forms including written, text, audio and video. When bad behavior is memorialized in texts, emails or social media posts, and it is discovered or released, it can be nearly impossible to recapture. In today’s world, anything we do or say can be recorded and appear again, used to enhance or diminish our credibility and reputation. Divorce is a circumstance in which the character of people may be questioned.
Despite the best efforts of people to hide information or cover their tracks, there are ways to uncover electronic data. Copies of data remain in existence on a computer even though files and emails are deleted by the user. Texts and social media content may remain in others screen shots and saved for later disclosure in many divorce cases.
Do you and your spouse use shared or separate accounts and devices?
Information stored on computers and in the cloud, can affect spouses in divorce, whether kept individually or jointly. If you and your spouse both use the same computer, expectations of privacy are difficult to argue, especially when passwords for email and social networking are saved.
Even if you and your spouse use different computers and do not know one another’s passwords, it only takes a few minutes to look through another’s tablet or phone to see who they talk to, who is sending them messages and what websites they visit. When trust is questioned, or broken, people can be creative in investigating one another. Would you know if your spouse looked in your phone and snapped pictures of your texts while you sleeping?
Many spouses who discover something noteworthy about the other, will be compelled to expand the search. This can lead to late night snooping, hiring investigators and computer technicians to lead to answers. In some divorces, spouses have used tracking devices on their spouse’s computers and vehicles to track their every word and movement. What has been discovered in some cases, has led to the loss of reputation, employment and worse.
How, if at all, can we protect ourselves from the unwanted exposure of electronic data in divorce?
If you are innocent of any wrong doing and have never said anything you wouldn’t say to your grandmother, or in public, you may have nothing to worry about. Nevertheless, people can lie and fabricate narratives and put words in your mouth, connecting innocent things to support their story about you. It is always a good idea to be sensitive to electronic data security.
If you are the one preparing to file for divorce, you may have the advantage of securing electronic data before divorce. You may consider, if it is feasible, to stop using email accounts and phone numbers used during the marriage and containing them by giving access to your divorce attorney for safe keeping. Beware of deleting anything after a divorce has been filed because you can suffer negative legal consequences. Also, deleted information can be found by experts. You may be asked to turn over all computers and devices if the court orders such. It is possible, but challenging, to appeal an order to turnover electronic data and object to a subpoena.
The obvious best course of conduct is to protect the privacy of your electronic data in good times as well as in bad. Your spouse may be the best hacker you know, because they know so much about you and what your passwords might be. It is a good idea to use passwords with numbers and characters even your spouse can not guess. Do not stay logged in, use your username and password to access sites, every time. Be mindful of unused computers and devices that may contain personal information.
If you have further questions about electronic data security and divorce, call Mark L. Scroggins at Scroggins Law Group in Dallas.
At Scroggins Law Group, our Dallas, Denton and Collin County divorce attorneys have more than over 24 years of collective experience with family law cases. When you retain our firm, you can trust that your case is in the hands of a highly skilled, dedicated professional. we understand the unique challenges of a high value divorce case, and more importantly, have the knowledge and experience you need on your side. Call us today, (214) 469-3100, to learn more about Texas divorce and family law.
*Mark L. Scroggins is *board-certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Unless otherwise noted, other attorneys are not *board-certified.
**Super Lawyers (a Thomson Reuters service, awarded to Mark Scroggins 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021)
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