Privacy During a Divorce: Illusion

Jaburg Wilk

The National Security Agency (NSA) was recently in the news when Edward Snowden disclosed that the United States have been spying on U.S. Citizens and foreign diplomats visiting the United States.  American citizens were outraged as well as understanding, which is a balance between the desire to be safe and the desire to retain privacy.  This news lead me to the consideration of the privacy of parties involved in a divorce action.

In general, a divorce action highlights our exposure on a daily basis.  During a divorce, information becomes a powerful tool to achieve a certain goal.  On a daily basis, you can view postings on social media in which we do not think twice about posting. But, during a divorce, those same innocent postings can become powerful tools during cross examination or during a deposition that will subsequently be used in trial.  A few examples would include the following:

  • Posting about a vacation.  During a divorce whereby spousal maintenance is an issue, the postings become further support for the spouse to illustrate that a spouse has the means to provider for his/her future support.
  • In a post-decree matter "Deadbeat Dad": Postings of purchases are used to show the non-paying parent elected to spend money on him/herself rather than providing for the children.  Showing the Court that a parent purchased a new television, took a trip or even attended a sporting event can have a powerful effect when that same parent has failed to pay their support obligation.

Additional privacy concerns are illustrated when the opposing parties' counsel issues a subpoena for cell phone records, which in some cases, can track your GPS location.  Most American's travel with a cell phone that has the GPS tracking device enabled.  When the cell phone carrier keeps this data and then it is subsequently released to counsel it can provide damaging information that a party may or may not want disclosed. Additionally, the cell phone records will show the time and duration of all incoming and outgoing phone calls.  These are items that normally would not warrant a second of consideration.  But, when you are involved in litigation for divorce or post-decree modification, it is not only important to give these issues a second thought, but strongly consider not providing the rope that opposing counsel will use to hang you with during trial.  So, my advice, talk to an attorney and specifically address these issues.  Personally, I advise all my clients to stop using all social media until after the hearing, just to be safe.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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