Examining Hacking in Divorce Cases

  • People facing a divorce, as well as their attorneys, have been found to have participated in hacking accounts of opposing parties.
  • The Wiretap Act is designed to protect an individual's privacy from hackers.
  • Issues of permission can make hacking accusations fall apart in court.

In the digital age that we are currently living in, it can feel like everything and everyone is available to you. With the increased importance of technology, media, and information as a whole in society, the need to know more about the world around us has never been more at our finger tips. With all of these advancements, relationships and human interaction have developed a new wrinkle in the social aspects of communication development.

In the vast array of information that the internet offers, social interaction through social media and email accounts have become vulnerable, as users of technology gain more and more proficient at manipulating the system, giving them access to any information they desire.

This type of hacking can leave those facing marital issues incredibly vulnerable to potential hacking.

Wiretap Act

The privacy of an individual is supposed to be protected through the Wiretap Act. The Wiretap Act is a federal law that is aimed at protecting your privacy in your communications with other individuals, according to Lawyers.com.

Under this act, it is illegal to intentionally or purposefully intercept, disclose or use the contents of any wire, oral, or electronic communication through the use of a device.

Those that face marital issues can often find themselves on the cusp of separation or divorce, and while the details of every relationship are unique to their own dynamics, information can be a valuable asset with separation and divorce looming.

Cordell & Cordell understands the concerns men face during divorce.

Issues of permission

Some estranged spouses have looked into hacking their spouse’s accounts, in order to gain the upper hand in their divorce. One particular case happened in Oakland County, Michigan when a divorcing husband suspected his soon-to-be ex-wife of cheating and hacked what he claimed to be the family computer, using her password, according to The Huffington Post.

His findings showed that his wife was having an affair with a prior husband, and only when the emails showed up in child custody pleadings with her first husband did she realize that her account had been compromised. The pending divorce involves her third husband, accused of the hacking.

The wife claimed that the password was not readily available and also claims that the computer was hers. The felony charges were later dropped, when it was revealed that the wife had read text messages on her husband’s phone during the same time period, according to CBS Detroit. Additionally, the stories began changing, and permission was called into question.

Once permission gets called into question, the concept of hacking for information that can benefit an individual in the middle of the divorce process travels into a gray area. The case becomes entirely based on the word of the accuser against the word of the defendant and can fall apart very quickly.

Misdeeds of an attorney

There also are cases out there where the attorney has gotten involved in the act of hacking, in order to help a client during the divorce process. Attorney Joel Eisenstein was suspended of his law license as a part-time prosecutor and lawyer for failing to disclose that their client obtained information by hacking into their estranged wife’s email account, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Eisenstein had a previous history of disciplinary problems, including willfully failing to file an income tax return, one suspension, and four admonishments. His client, Gregory Koch, accessed her email account by guessing her password, according to disciplinary filings from his lawyer’s case. Koch gave the information to Eisenstein, who ended up using it in preparation for both a settlement meeting and the divorce trial without informing opposing counsel.

When opposing counsel discovered this, they went to a county associate circuit judge. When confronted with the accusation Eisenstein lied, saying he had never seen the information. Under oath, Koch admitted to the hacking.

As an officer of the court, lawyers for both parties are to represent their clients zealously, within the formal rules of the Code of Professional Conduct, according to the American Bar Association. Their belief is that justice can be best achieved if each side’s case is vigorously presented by competent legal counsel. In withholding illegal information and not disclosing his client’s illegal activity, Eisenstein was violating his role as an officer of the court.

Crossing that line

Similar to illegal search and seizure, many individuals who commit acts of hacking, in an effort to get an edge in their divorce, do not realize that the evidence submitted could be considered inadmissible, if the hack is proven.

At times, privacy is an aspect of our lives that takes a backseat during the invasive nature of dividing assets during a divorce. However, investigating a soon-to-be ex-spouse’s whereabouts and misdeeds through actively invading their accounts is not the answer. Hire a private investigator. Ask around. Crossing that legal and ethical line is not the answer, no matter how difficult this divorce is.

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