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Spouses Increasingly Using High-Tech Gadgets to Spy On Their Partner

Some of the most popular devices used by couples considering or in the midst of a divorce are those that track a spouse’s movements — GPS tracking systems — and those that record online activity, such as emails.

These days, an individual can acquire a GPS tracker for less than $200. The devices are small enough to be placed on a vehicle undetected, often as tiny as a matchbox. Once placed on the vehicle, many of the devices have software that allows the user to track the vehicle’s movement on a cellphone. GPS manufacturers have reported higher sales in 2012 than 2011, some marking a practically 80 percent increase from the year before.

People suspicious of their significant other’s behavior can also purchase software programs for their computers to record activity, including emails sent and received. The technology can be purchased for less than $100 and installed without the other person’s knowledge.

Small recording devices are also popular gadgets used to spy on significant others. Companies that sell such devices reported in 2012 that sales of hidden cameras and so-called nannycams were 40 percent higher than the year prior.

Are there legal consequences for spying on your spouse?

There is no doubt that technological evidence is becoming more prevalent in divorce cases. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers conducted a survey of family law attorneys last year and reported that 92 percent had detected a rise in the amount of cellphone evidence used in divorce cases over the previous three years. The most common types of evidence seen included:
– Text messages
– Emails
– GPS location data
– Call histories

Despite the marked increase in the number of spouses using spyware to determine their significant other’s activities, some jurisdictions in the country have ruled certain behaviors are illegal. Courts have often relied on state stalking laws or the Federal Wiretap Act when ruling on the legality of the use of various types of spyware.

Courts across the country have differed in their rulings, however, leaving some ambiguity about which types of spyware are allowable and under which circumstances. For instance, a federal judge in Texas held that a husband who used computer software and a recording device to observe his wife’s activities was within his rights. The judge ruled that he did not violate the Federal Wiretap Act, as it did not apply to "interspousal wiretaps." Approximately five other U.S. circuit courts have ruled, however, that the act bans marital wiretapping.

As the laws regarding spyware in marriages are not settled, it is best to consult with a family law attorney prior to using such devices to spy on a spouse. If you suspect your spouse has already installed spyware technology, a Texas family law attorney will be able to advise you as to the best course of action.

Article provided by Kerr, Hendershot & Cannon, P.C.
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