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Digital spying in the family law realm: it's a brave new world

A recent article from National Public Radio states that divorce in the early decades of the 21st century raises open questions regarding "what it means to be safe and how much privacy you're entitled to."

And that is perhaps nowhere more evident, stresses NPR, than in the realm of so-called "digital spying."

We suspect that most of our readers across Massachusetts can venture a good guess as to what that entails. Some perhaps know full well what it is and perhaps engage in it or seek to defend against it.

In one case, it can mean a vindictive or jealous spouse trying to pry into an ex-partner's online social media accounts for unethical or even unlawful reasons. Conversely, digital surveillance might be undertaken in an altogether legal manner to discover information about, say, a former spouse's conduct that is endangering a couple's children.

Either way, the phenomenon of digital spying is growing rapidly and becoming even commonplace across the country, especially in the family law sphere. NPR reports that evolving spy tools like a tracking device that can be easily hidden in a car body "are changing divorce as we know it." Couples are turning increasingly more often to spyware and hard-to-detect monitoring devices to check on each other "as their marriages fall apart."

Of course, parties who are divorcing or who wish to secure a post-divorce modification to a court order often try to keep close tabs on a partner or ex-spouse. Evidence concerning something like illicit drug use, hidden income, family violence or other important matters can have a dramatic impact in court.

Nowadays, digital spying tools that are both readily available and relatively cheap have changed the marital landscape for surveillance in an epochal way when compared with sleuthing attempts of the past.

How they are put to use can be concerning and problematic, though. NPR stresses that "the laws are murky, and law enforcement is lagging far behind."

Notwithstanding that, clandestine surveillance in family law matters using evolving technologies is bound to exponentially increase. We will likely hear many interesting tales in the future concerning spying attempts and outcomes.

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