Protecting Your Online Activity In A Divorce

Chicago divorces can be more complex than in the past due to many forms of new technology. There are a few things every person who is considering divorce should know.

If you are still living with your spouse, it is important that you take precautions to protect your private information. Create a password on your private computer, your telephone, and any tablet or electronic devices that you can use to access sensitive information. Do not make the password something your spouse can easily guess and change your passwords frequently in case your spouse has become aware of it and has not told you.

Your e-mails are probably more private and protected if you read them in a secure internet browser and if you ensure the e-mails are not downloaded to your computer’s hard drive. Always log out of your e-mail account before you walk away from your computer. You can configure your computer to lock your screen and require a password after a few minutes of inactivity. We have heard of many situations in which one spouse leaves his or her e-mail account open on a computer and the other spouse reads the e-mails. Generally, e-mail providers, such as Gmail, cannot provide the contents of e-mails in a divorce case, even if they are served with a subpoena. However, if the e-mails are stored on your computer itself, your spouse may be able to seize your computer and retrieve the e-mails. The same may be true for your cellular telephone if you use a phone that downloads e-mails to your phone’s hard drive. Speaking of cell phones, you should consider changing your settings so that text messages do not pop up and require a password to access.

If you are sharing a computer with your spouse, stop today. We recommend that you either use a private computer. On your private computer, you should be listed as the only user and access should be password-protected. We are not technology attorneys, but there is a higher expectation of privacy if you are the only user of a computer and if it is password-protected. Ideally, you should have a unique username, a completely private password, and encryption on your computer. If you share a computer with your spouse,he or shemay be able to argue that they can spy on your e-mails and chats because you did not have an expectation of privacy.

Some of the best Chicago divorce attorneys are using evidence gathered on Facebook and other social networking sites in divorce cases. This kind of evidence is becoming more and more common. Oftentimes, it is not what you post that is a problem, but it is posts in which you are tagged by other people. Pictures and “timeline” posts can reveal things you would rather keep hidden and can harm your case. It is likely that your spouse will search for something to use against you on Facebook or other social networking sites. Even a Pinterest account and the images you save and publicly share may be used against you. Attorneys have also been known to pull out profiles and other dating network profiles in court to show that a party claimed he or she was single when in fact he or she was still married. Sometimes people also state on their profiles that they do not have children when they actually do. If the person with this profile was fighting for custody, this could create a problem for them. Therefore, it is important that you protect yourself and remove your Facebook profile and other social network profiles from visibility. Try to wait until you are officially divorced before you create an online dating profile.

Illinois’s wiretapping law is a “two-party consent” law. Illinois makes it a crime to use an “eavesdropping device” to overhear or record a phone call or conversation without the consent of all parties to the conversation. The law defines an “eavesdropping device” as “any device capable of being used to hear or record oral conversation or intercept, retain, or transcribe electronic communication whether such conversation or electronic communication is conducted in person, by telephone, or by any other means.”

While you generally are permitted to photograph or record video of people without permission in most public places, it is illegal in Illinois to “videotape, photograph, or film” people without their consent in “a restroom, tanning bed, or tanning salon, locker room, changing room or hotel bedroom.” So if your spouse is going into a hotel room with a paramour, you cannot record their activity by placing a hidden camera in the hotel room. If you obtain evidence in this manner, it will most likely be inadmissible in court. You also may face criminal prosecution. It may also be a crime to install a program on your spouse’s computer that captures whatever your spouse types as he or she is typing and transmitting messages. You may face criminal prosecution for installing such a program and the evidence likely would not admissible in court. There are other, legal ways to obtain information about your spouse.

If you are contemplating starting a Chicago divorce case or if you are involved in a Chicago divorce case already, you should take precautions to ensure your private data is protected. You should also act within the bounds of Illinois and federal law to ensure that you are not breaking any laws while looking into your spouse’s activities.

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If you are looking for legal advice and representation with an Illinois divorce, schedule a consultation with experienced Chicago divorce attorney, Tanya Witt, at (312) 500-5400 or

Representing men and women in Chicago divorce and child custody cases.

This blog does not constitute legal advice. Please consult with an attorney regarding your specific case.