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The Spy Who Divorced Me

Almost everyone is addicted to technology - cellphones, tablets and many other computer-based devices. However, the next time you communicate over an electronic medium, know that someone may be recording your statements.

For example, one woman thought that her email, instant messaging and phone conversations were private and confined to the walls of her own home. Instead, a video camera tracked her movements, a microphone in the wall recorded sounds and sophisticated computer technology copied her emails and online conversations.

The secret recordings continued in her home for months. Why? The woman's former husband was collecting evidence that he hoped to use against her in their divorce proceedings. Now, the recordings are at the center of a federal case about the use of surveillance technology and the right to privacy.

While this case may sound unusual, divorce attorneys indicate that high-tech snooping is more and more common. These days, it is easy to purchase quality technology for a low price. This surveillance equipment is specifically appealing to spouses that suspect infidelity in a relationship.

According to a recent survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 92 percent of the nation's top divorce attorneys say they have seen an increase in the number of cases using evidence taken from iPhones, Droids and other smartphones. In addition, nearly all of the respondents cited a rise in the use of text messages as evidence during the same time period.

However, the use of this information evokes a host of privacy laws, which were written in the days of rotary phones and cassette tapes. This is concerning because technology continues to evolve at an exponential rate.

In the context of the recent case, the husband has some legal protections because the wiretapping was performed within the walls of his own home. On the other hand, the wife believes that her privacy rights under federal wiretapping laws were violated.

While no criminal charges were filed, a family law judge declared that the recordings were obtained illegally. The recorded evidence was thrown out of the divorce case.

The federal lawsuits seek damages for wiretapping and invasion of privacy. Ultimately, the suits claim that the husband not only violated privacy laws, but also the unspoken moral and ethical rules married couples should follow - even if one spouse is suspicious of the other.

Generally, federal wiretapping laws permit audio recording as long as one of the parties involved in the conversation is aware of the recording. However, the law is not clear. Most wiretapping laws are outdated, applying solely to audio recordings. Visual images are not thoroughly covered, and the privacy of emails and instant messages is being deciphered in courts.

It will take time before the law catches up with technology - if it ever does. However, experts claim that surveillance evidence has worked against the spying spouse in many divorce cases. Even when the evidence is legal, judges see the recordings as intrusive.

Privacy issues aside, you should know that electronic devices and social media platforms store information. If you are regularly on Facebook or Twitter, everything you say is essentially permanent.

If you are confronting a divorce, you should know what to expect. The process can be extremely overwhelming. Speaking with a knowledgeable family law attorney will help you gain a better understanding of your case.

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