Divorce is bad enough. Add GPS trackers, spyware, and other such elements, and it becomes even worse.
In 36 years of practice, it has not been unusual for a client to express concern that the estranged spouse knows where I am and to whom I speak. Was it nerves, hypersensitivity, or is it true?
Today, it is highly likely that it’s true. With the high stakes involved in divorce, to include custody and money, people are turning to all methods to gather “dirt” on the other party to improve their situation. Is the spouse cheating, gambling, a drug user, a deadbeat, a criminal? These are relevant issues on the subjects of custody, access, alimony, and a monetary award, as well as on the grounds for divorce itself.
Once shared devices, and shared accounts often provide easy access. Sticking a tracker onto a vehicle requires only an opportunity and a moment. But, is it legal?????
Generally speaking, illegally acquired evidence will not be admitted at trial. But can we always prove that the evidence was illegally acquired?
The state of the law in Maryland is that it is illegal to intercept or cause another to intercept wire, oral, or electronic communication unless there is consent. That’s a short version of the Maryland statute, but enough to consider the issue. At face value, it is fair to say that surreptitious acquisition of this type of information using a device without consent leads to evidence that is inadmissible. But, that’s not the end of the inquiry. Even though one acquires information improperly, that person still has the information. They may not be able to directly use the messages improperly acquired from a phone or a computer, but that information may lead to other, legal avenues to acquire the same information. In a criminal matter, that would be called fruit of the poisonous tree, and would also be inadmissible, but divorce matters are not criminal proceedings with those stringent rules.
A GPS tracker is often placed on a vehicle to track one’s movements. It is much more convenient and more cost-effective than the use of a private investigator. However, in this instance, title matters. If the parties jointly own the vehicle in question, either party has the right to track its whereabouts. If the vehicle is owned by one, it would seem that the non-titled party does not have the right to use a GPS to track it.
So how do you protect yourself? Be mindful and be defensive. Do not engage in behavior that can be used against you, first and foremost. Avoid and change shared account access. Change passwords, open separate accounts, make up answers to security questions, and don’t leave a computer open or yourself logged into a site.
Get a new phone, keep it locked, and be more diligent than ever about what you do and say. Should you have to live this way? Maybe not, but you have to be realistic about the current circumstances. If you have something to hide, you are vulnerable. The reality is that people can be under a microscope while navigating a contested divorce. Take the advice your attorney gives you, and if you don’t, you will create more issues to deal with and you will spend more money doing so.
While it is an invasive challenge to deal with these subjects, once final decisions are made, these types of issues generally go away and people move on. If I can help you with these or other issues related to divorce, please schedule a consultation with me.
If I can help you with these or other issues related to divorce, please schedule a consultation with me.
Contact Linda Sorg Ostovitz at email@example.com or 301-575-0381.
ABOUT LINDA SORG OSTOVITZ
Linda Sorg Ostovitz is a family law attorney. Her legal experience spans more than 34 years. In this time, she has served as a leader, educator and advocate. Mrs. Ostovitz holds a prestigious fellowship in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Currently, she serves as President for the Business Women’s Network of Howard County, by which she was chosen Woman of Distinction for 2014. Mrs. Ostovitz represents clients in Howard, Anne Arundel, Carroll and Baltimore Counties. Her practice focuses exclusively on divorce litigation and mediation, child custody and access, child support, alimony, business valuation, as well as property and asset distribution. In addition to providing legal representation in court, Mrs. Ostovitz provides mediation services to help families come to a fair and legally-sound conclusion outside of the traditional court proceedings.
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