Ever get that feeling that you’re being watched? If you are going through a divorce, or in a contentious relationship, it may be more than just a song from the 80s.
There are lots of reasons people spy on one another. Sometimes, people snoop or spy with great intentions. They may want to know where their kids are and if they are safe. People look on a business website to see their reviews, or snoop on Facebook or Instagram to find out more information.
However, spying on a spouse during a divorce process may be a result of a less than “pure” motivation. There are many reasons why a spouse may be spying on another spouse. Some of these include trying to determine if you are having an affair, using drugs, spending money on gambling or other vices, pretending to go to work and many others.
This type of spying is used to try and get an advantage in a divorce. Even though Texas has “no-fault” divorce, a spouse can still state specific grounds for the divorce under the Texas Family Code. These include living apart, confinement in a mental facility, cruelty, abandonment, adultery and conviction of a felony.
A Judge or jury may give more community property to the “innocent spouse” if fault is proven in a divorce.
Also, if your spouse is abusive, he or she may be simply trying to control you by knowing your every move.
The purpose of this article is to help you take steps to protect yourself from legal or illegal spying by your spouse or another.
There are many ways spouses spy on each other. Some of these include, Facebook or other social media, cellphone tracking, recording you or having you “bugged,” spyware, tracking your vehicle, using “nanny cams,” hiring a private investigator, or simply following you themselves.
Your social media can be your own worst enemy in a divorce. We often tell clients not to put anything on your social media that you would be embarrassed to see on a six foot screen in the courtroom. When talking about spying, however, social media can provide a wealth of information for your spouse.
Someone can see where you are, who you are with, what you are doing and much more. Even if you unfriend your spouse and change security settings on your accounts, it doesn’t prevent your spouse from learning information from one of your friends.
The easiest way to stop this type of sharing is suspend or end your social media accounts during the pendency of the divorce.
New pay sites such as Venmo have really made things easy to pay someone for splitting a check, sharing a ride and other things. However, they are also sites that people can use to spy on someone. Part of the price we pay for having all these conveniences is that we sacrifice a lot of privacy that we took for granted.
The first thing you may want to do is get a new cellphone, especially if you are on a shared plan with your spouse. Most cell phone carriers make it extremely easy to spy on your spouse if you are sharing a plan.
Features such as Find my iPhone, parental controls, family maps, FamilyBase, and Family Locator can be used to track your exact whereabouts, arrival and departure times, get real-time interactive satellite maps and many other things. Your spouse can also get text messages and numbers of your calls.
Change your passwords. It doesn’t do you much good to get new accounts, phones, etc., if your spouse can guess your passwords and get on those accounts. You will need to change your passwords on ALL your separate accounts, including phone carriers, banks, iTunes, and any other account you think your spouse has access to.
Recording Your Spouse
We are often asked if it is ok to record your spouse. The basic rule in Texas is that it is ok to record any interaction in which you are a participant. This means you don’t have to get your spouse’s permission to record them. If you are a participant, you can record in-person conversations, phone calls and even videotape someone when you are a participant.
However, if you are recording someone who has a right to privacy, and you are not a participant, you could be committing an illegal act.
Remember, just because something is illegal, doesn’t mean it isn’t going on. In other words, your spouse may be recording your actions whether they are a participant in your phone calls, conversations or activities.
It is illegal to “bug” your spouse to catch them talking to other people, where you are not a participant in the conversation. However, as mentioned above, just because it is illegal, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
In today’s world, bugging devices don’t even have to be a physical device. There are lots of apps available that can allow your spouse to spy on your cellphone and computer. Other apps can be downloaded and used to track your location through your phone. Different types of spyware can be used to monitor your texting, record phone calls, record your location, track pictures taken, read emails and monitor your email browsing. Most of this is illegal, but again, happens all the time.
If you suspect your spouse is spying on you, get your computer and phone checked for spyware.
Lots of folks use so-called nanny cams to check on their babysitters, maids and other people who come into their homes. In the divorce arena, they are often used to snoop on another spouse. The use of a nanny cam is usually legal in Texas. However, again, they cannot be used to record any conversation in which you are not a participant and they cannot be used in private areas of the home, such as the bathroom or bedroom.
Tiwi and other tracking devices are now on the market that can be attached to your vehicle that allows your spouse to spy on you. These devices allow someone to see where, when and how fast you are driving somewhere. Most of these devices plug into the car’s diagnostic ports. If you believe this may be happening, have an expert mechanic check your car for any devices.
How to Protect Yourself
There are several ways you can protect yourself from spying. First, be aware of your circumstances. Pay attention to what is going on around you. If something doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t.
Install firewalls on your computers. Get good password protection and encryption software on your devices.
First and foremost, take care of your business. If you are doing the right things, you don’t have to worry about what someone sees or hears.
Let us be your first call for any legal questions.