What is Considered Electronic Snooping in Divorce?

What is Considered Electronic Snooping in Divorce?

What is Considered Electronic Snooping in Divorce?

Divorce in Illinois is often the result of a loss of trust between spouses. This loss of trust often causes one (or both) spouses to suspect the other of wrongdoing, such as adultery or hiding assets. In turn, this leads the suspicious spouse to resort to some form of “electronic snooping” to gather evidence confirming their suspicions.

But you need to tread with extreme caution in this area. “Hacking” into your spouse’s private email account may feel cathartic. It is also illegal in many cases. And even if you do find evidence of spousal wrongdoing, it may not make much of a difference when it comes to your divorce. That is why you should never resort to any kind of electronic snooping without first consulting a qualified Illinois divorce lawyer.

Illinois Law Protects Your Spouse’s Private Communications

Let’s start with the basics. When it comes to oral conversations, you generally need the permission of all parties to record that conversation. So if you are talking on the phone with your spouse, you cannot record that conversation without their consent. Nor can you record any conversation between your spouse or a third party without consent from all parties. You can be charged with felony wiretapping in Illinois if you do.

Similarly, Illinois law protects “private electronic communications” from unauthorized access of snooping. The relevant Illinois statute, codified as 720 ILCS 5/14-1, defines “private” to mean any communication where the sending or receiving party intended it “to be private under circumstances reasonably justifying that expectation.” So when is an expectation of privacy reasonable? Here are a few general examples:

  • any emails or text messages your spouse sends from their private account to a third party;
  • private messages that your spouse sends to a third party using a social media app;
  • information contained on a spouse’s private calendar app, such as Google or Outlook;
  • information regarding a spouse’s web browsing history on their private computer; or
  • using a GPS or tracking device, such as an Apple AirTag, to monitor where your spouse travels in their personal vehicle.

At the same time, information that your spouse has posted in a public forum or another area where there is not a reasonable expectation can be fair game in a divorce proceeding. This includes anything your spouse says on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Mastodon, TikTok, or a similar service. Even in cases where your spouse may designate their account as “private” within the service if one of their followers decides to share something they posted with you, that would generally not be considered illegal electronic eavesdropping under Illinois law.

Contact an Illinois Divorce Attorney Today

Emotions often run high in an Illinois divorce case. It is understandable that you may wish to gather as much information as you can to use against an estranged spouse in court. But you need to be smart about it and not get yourself in potential criminal trouble. If you need to speak with an experienced electronic snooping and divorce lawyer in Illinois, contact SAM LAW OFFICE, LLC, today to schedule a free consultation.





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