Spying on Your Ex Can be Useless or Dangerous
If you are in the middle of a divorce, especially one where agreements are not common and it seems that you and your spouse are fighting about every possible issue, the idea of spying on your (soon-to-be) ex may seem like a good idea. Spying or snooping is especially tempting when there are allegations that the other spouse is lying about his or her finances, whereabouts, or lifestyle.
Spying itself is not illegal; private investigators do this all the time. “Staking out” a location, following someone, or obtaining information that is otherwise available in public records is commonplace in many kinds of legal cases.
You may not have the time to conduct this kind of intense surveillance on your own. Even if you do, your testimony about whatever it is you observed may not be as credible or believable as a neutral person who works in the field of surveillance.
Spouses must ask themselves what they are gaining out of the surveillance and whether the cost of hiring a company to do the spying is really worth it. For example, seeing your spouse dating a new partner or in a new relationship may seem salacious and juicy, but legally, it may have very little impact on any of the issues in your case.
Seeing someone spend money at a restaurant or a store does not necessarily indicate what income or expenses that they have available to pay alimony or child support. Seeing customers walk into a spouse’s business is not conclusive evidence of how much the business is or is not making. Anything illegal such as a spouse’s drug usage likely won’t be captured in plain view by a private eye anyway.
There are limited times when surveillance may yield something useful. For example, a spouse who says that he or she is not working at all, who is then spied going to work, may be beneficial evidence in court.
Sometimes spying is illegal and can even get you in trouble. For example, tapping telephones or using bugs or wires to record conversations is not only inadmissible in court, but illegal. Hacking into bank accounts, social media accounts, or email accounts, or rigging computers to record keystrokes, is not only illegal, but a judge may not even permit you to use that information in court if it was obtained illegally.
In many cases, people want to pry or spy not for any legal reason, but for personal reasons. They may have a hard time “letting go” of the marriage or the spouse. There may be a personal fascination with the other party’s life or status that goes beyond obtaining any useful evidence. Spying in these cases can not only damage your reputation, but is likely to yield very little that is useful. In these cases, it may be better to seek professional help to get through an emotionally trying divorce.
The Tampa family law attorneys at the Pawlowski//Mastrilli Law Group can help you understand what is and what is not allowable in your divorce case. Call us with any questions you may have.