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Electronic Snooping During a Connecticut Divorce

January 16, 2024


In this day and age, the majority of our information is stored within our electronic devices. During a divorce, you may be tempted to snoop through your soon-to-be ex-spouse’s personal devices to gain valuable insight that can benefit your case. However, doing so may lead to a significant amount of legal trouble. 

In our latest video blog, Partner Sarah Murray weighed in to shed some light on this intriguing topic. Her insights are summarized below.

Can Parties Getting Divorced in Connecticut Access Their Spouse’s Electronic Devices to Obtain Information?

It is common for people getting divorced in Connecticut to ask this question, as our cell phones, tablets, smartwatches, and computers (amongst other things) can be a treasure trove of information. With that said complex federal and state laws can make accessing this information on your spouse’s device illegal. For example, putting spyware on your spouse’s computer can run afoul of certain laws. Even using a password that your spouse has provided can be problematic. 

Even if it would not be illegal to access the particular information sought, it can also be unusable as evidence in your Connecticut divorce, depending on what is obtained and how it is obtained.

What Should a Party Do if He or She Thinks That Electronically Stored Information Is Critical to His or Her Case?

First and foremost, a party should refrain from taking matters into their own hands and consult with an attorney about how best to access the information, if at all. One way of getting the information is to request it from the other party as part of the discovery process. This method is common with e-mails, text messages, and social media accounts.

Can A Party Delete Harmful Information From Devices Once A Divorce Action Starts?

Deleting information, such as text messages or e-mails, requested in discovery to prevent the other side from having it can lead to sanctions from a Court and damage to the overall case. If there is information on your devices that the other side has requested and that may not be helpful to your case, deleting it is not the solution. In such a situation, discussing the information with your attorney and how to address it as part of your strategy is your best option.

What if a Party Suspects That His or Her Spouse Has Deleted Electronic Information That Would be Useful to the Divorce Case?

Depending on how important the information is to a party’s case, they and their attorney can decide to file a motion with the Court requesting access to the other side’s electronic devices for purposes of having them inspected by a computer forensic expert. This is not common, but in certain circumstances, it can be appropriate. If ordered by a Court, the inspection would need to be done by a professional computer forensic who has the expertise to find the information and who can do so in a way that preserves it for use in the case. 

How Can A Party Protect Electronically Stored Information During A Divorce?

The answer to this question comes down to common sense. An obvious first step is to change all passwords to devices, e-mails, and social media accounts. Changing your passwords periodically is also a good idea. Two-factor authentication can also be used as another line of defense. Make sure that you are not saving information, particularly attorney-client privileged information, to cloud storage that your spouse has access to. If you have more serious concerns that your spouse is inappropriately accessing your ESI, speak to your attorney about other options. 

If you’re considering divorce, it’s highly advised that you seek experienced counsel. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you.

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