Getting Divorced? Helpful Tips About Social Media and Electronic Data
Question: I know my spouse’s passwords to their social media accounts, bank accounts and/or financial accounts, can I log into their account and get the information we need to help win my case?
Answer: While this might sound like a really good idea, the answer is no. In doing so, you would likely be breaking a number of federal laws. These laws include the Stored Communications Act, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. You might also be breaking state law, such as A.R.S. § 13-2916, which prohibits using an electronic communication “with intent to terrify, intimidate, harass or threaten a specific person”.
You can/will get this information through the process of discovery in your case. Tell your lawyer what it is you think your spouse should provide. You’ll get the information you seek, and you won’t go to jail in the process!
Question: I use social media all of the time – Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. Can what I post be used against me in my divorce?
Answer: Absolutely. Exercise good judgment and caution while your divorce is pending. Pictures of partying and spending can have an adverse impact if issues in your divorce include financial support, children or allegations of substance abuse.
Question: What if my soon to be ex is posting something negative about me?
Answer: Resist the urge to respond. There are legal processes to request removal of posts. Additionally, a judge can order parties to restrict their use of social media and negative posts can be used against the person that posted them.
Question: Can I access my ex’s email account?
Answer: First, and of great importance, you should create your own email account that only you have access to. Second, never access your former spouse’s email account. If you know of something in the email, tell your lawyer. He/she can obtain it through lawful means. Finally, the information sought must be relevant to issues in your divorce. For example, if you don’t have children, the fact that your spouse might be partying on the weekends probably doesn’t have much bearing on your case, despite how interesting you might find it to be.
About the authors:Carissa Seidl is a family law attorney at the Phoenix law firm of Jaburg Wilk. Her representation of family law clients focuses on divorce, child custody and post decree modifications. She is well experienced in high conflict dissolutions.
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