Family Law

Rules About Electronics & Social Media

Electronics During a Divorce in Huntersville, Cornelius or Mooresville, NC

One of the things we are asked about by most clients in the greater Charlotte area is what they can look at on their spouse’s phone, iPad, or computer.  While there is not one answer that applies to all situations, below are some general rules to follow when it comes to electronics and social media in divorce. Of course, if you have any questions about how this applies to you please call us and ask before you take any actions.

PHONES, COMPUTERS AND TABLETS

If ALL four of these are true:

  1. You are living with your spouse;
  2. Your spouse has given you his/her password;
  3. The device is marital property (you may need to ask us about this one); and
  4. The device is not owned by a business.. then

you can look at what is on the device. In some situations, it is a good idea to take the device to a professional and have it “imaged.”  This will allow you to preserve the content of the device as of that date; you never know what someone may try and ‘erase’ later.  At a minimum, download and copy anything you find important; or take a screen shot or picture of the information.

SOCIAL MEDIA

The rules for social media are pretty simple:  STOP USING IT!!!

It may be difficult to go offline for a while but believe us it is in your best interest.

For more information about electronics and social media during a divorce, call to speak with one of our family law attorneys in Huntersville, Cornelius or Mooresville, NC

 

Dos & Donts

Electronics

DON’T, under any circumstances, install any spyware.
It is illegal.  Any information you obtain from such an illegal download is not useable in court, except in the criminal case against you.  It is also possible that the use of such spyware will subject you to criminal and civil penalties.

DON’T guess at a password.

If your spouse has changed his/her password and has not given you the new password, you may not guess and thereafter use the information discovered. There are options available to you through the courts to have the information and to have it protected.  Just let us know if you think there may be important information on the device and we will walk you through the best options and next steps.

If you never knew the password to start with, do not sit there and try and figure it out.

Both of these rules apply to unlocking the device itself and trying to access or open any program, app, or account.

DON’T break into an email account.
If your spouse’s device does not require a passcode to unlock it, but their email account IS password protected and you have never been given the password or permission to use the account, you may not open your spouse’s email.  Not only is any information you obtain not useable; accessing the account can subject you to both criminal and civil penalties.

DON’T touch a work-issued device.
If your spouse has a work-issued computer (including a business your spouse owns) you may NOT access the internal information even if you know the password. You may NOT authorize a forensic expert to image the hard drive.  There are ways to lawfully access the information and we can walk through that, but any action on your part to do it yourself, or have a 3rd party do so, without a court order will subject you to both civil and criminal penalties.  This one is easy, JUST DON’T DO IT!

DO change your passwords.
Change your password for all of your devices and accounts.  The new password should be something entirely different and not a variation of a regularly used password.

DO create a new email account.
Create a new personal email address, separate from any work email, and separate from any previously used personal accounts.  Password protect your new accounts, and do not tell anyone the password.

DO be careful using any device that is on a family plan.
If your phone or tablet is on a family plan or the account is in your spouse’s name it is possible that they can, and are, monitoring your use of the device and possibly your movements. If you suspect this, please bring it to our attention ASAP.

DO check your device settings and locator capabilities.
If your spouse has at times had access to your device, or you share a cloud account, it is possible that the device may have spyware, locator services, GPS, or other monitoring applications enabled. At a minimum, check and see what locator services are on and disable them.  Also, be sure your device is no longer backing up to a jointly used cloud.  While you cannot destroy your current device, or any information on it, it is always a good idea to get a new device and use it for personal matters going forward.  When getting a new device, be sure to also open a new individual account.

DO be aware that your spouse may be recording you.
We all leave our phones, and other devices, out in the open so much that most of us don’t even notice them anymore.  All devices have a recording app and it is easy to record a conversation or event without the other person’s knowledge.  In North Carolina, it is permissible to record a conversation you are a part of without the other person’s consent, and this recording may be used later in court proceedings.  Just be on your best behavior when talking with your spouse.

Dos & Donts

Social Media

  • DON’T delete, erase or alter what you have already posted on social media. If you have not done so already, make all of the settings on your accounts private.
  • DON’T create fake accounts or pose as other people to access anyone’s information or posts.
  • DON’T have a friend do what you can’t do, but if they are already a “follower” or friend of your spouse on their accounts, you can view the information that way.
  • DO review your spouse’s postings IF you already have access.  Download, copy, or photograph anything you think is important.
  • DO change location settings for any “friend finder” sites.

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