Maryland and DC Divorce: Spying on Your Spouse Is Dangerous For Your Divorce

woman is angry at what she saw on a cellphone

Let’s be honest: every spouse spies on their spouse. It may be only a quick peek at a text or an email or might involve a full-blown exploration of your spouse’s phone or computer. However, when it comes to divorce, spying on your spouse is a bad idea and can have negative consequences if such spying becomes known to your Maryland or DC divorce court judge. As discussed below, spying is also bad because it is not necessary.

Why is Spying a Bad Thing?

Under some circumstances, spying on your spouse is illegal. For example, there is a federal law called the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. This Act makes it illegal to access another person’s written, oral or electronic communications without permission (including emails, text messages, and phone calls).

Both Maryland and the District of Columbia have similar legal prohibitions. See, for example, MD. Code, Courts & Jud. Proc. § 10-402(c)(3). These laws have criminal components. Thus, some forms of spying are criminal in nature.

If your divorce court judge learns that you have committed crimes by spying on your spouse, the fact that you have engaged in criminal behavior may severely impact the outcome of your divorce. Divorce courts take negative views of criminal behavior. Such might impact custody and visitation decisions, lead to less alimony, or an unfavorable marital property division.

Of course, “spying” has a specific legal meaning and does not include noticing suspicious behavior by your spouse, finding your spouse romantically involved with another person, seeing strange charges on the joint credit card, or finding weird withdrawals of cash from the bank account. Further, catching your spouse on a surveillance camera installed for security purposes — or something like a Ring camera — is not deemed “spying,” particularly if your spouse was aware of the camera. But, to be clear, spying on your spouse is a bad idea and might endanger your case.

As noted — and most importantly — once the Maryland/DC divorce case is filed, spying is not NECESSARY. Why? Because your savvy and experienced Maryland and DC divorce lawyers have LEGAL means and methods of uncovering the information that you might try to locate through spying.

For example, during a divorce, there is a legal process called “discovery.” This involves an exchange of information between the spouses through written questions (and answers), production and review of documents, examination of physical things (like phones and computers), and oral testimony given at depositions. Thus, if there are some credible allegations of infidelity or other wrongdoing, very likely, the divorce court will allow one spouse to obtain copies of text messages and emails that might definitely show such misconduct. It may also be possible to get discovery on tracking information that is contained on a smartphone or a GPS device located in your spouse’s vehicle. Since you can legally get the information you need for your divorce, there is no reason to resort to potentially illegal behavior like spying.

Maryland and DC Divorce and Family Law Attorneys

For more information, contact the seasoned and experienced Maryland and DC divorce lawyers at The Law Offices of Thomas Stahl. We have the skills and expertise you need. We have proven experience with divorce and family law for Maryland and the District of Columbia. Schedule a consultation today or call us at (410) 696-4326 or (202) 964-7280. We have offices in Columbia, MD, and Washington, DC.

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