We live in a world surrounded by technology. Every day, more and more of our lives and interactions are recorded on social media, text messages, emails, and photos. Individuals in the process of divorce increasingly want to use this type of documentation as proof of their claims. For example, an individual may be concerned that their spouse is having an affair. To confirm their suspicion, they may seek out evidence to substantiate the claim. Additionally, custody battles become quite contentious when both parties are looking for an “edge” to get the parenting time results they want. However, invasions of your spouse’s privacy, commonly considered “spying,” may expose you to civil and criminal liability.
The Federal wiretapping laws and New Jersey Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act seek to regulate the privacy of electronic communications, such as those over the internet and on phone. These laws define the legal limitations of high-tech spying, but also apply to personal invasions of privacy between spouses. In addition, NJ law requires the consent of one party for recording a conversation. This means that you can only record a conversation if you are a party to it.
Additionally, you can be held liable under tort law for invading your spouse’s privacy. This could result in paying monetary damages to your spouse. Simply intentionally intruding on the private affairs of another is enough for your spouse to file a legal claim. They must also show that your actions would be considered “highly offensive to a reasonable person.” For instance, in the case of White v. White, the court found that a wife copying the hard drive of the family computer was not a highly offensive invasion of her husband’s privacy, despite the fact that he did not know that his emails were also being saved to the computer hard drive. The shared nature of the computer indicated to the court that its contents could not reasonably be considered private. However, NJ Courts have also found a reasonable expectation of privacy when it comes to password protected email accounts.
Questionable Violations of Privacy
- Accessing password-protected accounts without permission
- Spying on a spouse’s work-owned cellphone or computer
- Recording your spouse’s conversations over the phone to which you are not a party
- Other invasions of privacy that a court may find objectively highly offensive
If you would like to learn more, please call our office to speak with an experienced attorney. Our office has been specializing in family law since we opened our doors in 2005. If you have any questions about filing for divorce or custody in NJ, please contact us to schedule a free initial consultation!