A case is currently pending in Oakland County, Michigan, that is based upon alleged illegal behavior in a divorce. The Oakland County Prosecutor has charged a man who was going through a divorce, with a felony based upon hacking and misuse of a computer. A divorce was pending, and the husband suspected his wife of being unfaithful. There was a computer in the home, which the husband claimed was a family computer, and the wife claims was hers. The husband hacked into the computer, using his wife's password. He claimed that the password was readily available; she claimed it was not.
He found emails showing that his wife had been unfaithful and involved in an extramarital affair with a prior husband. The estranged wife realized that her computer had been hacked when personal e-mails showed up in child custody pleadings between her and husband number one. The pending divorce involves husband number three who hacked into his wife's computer.
The wife filed a complaint with the prosecutor's office based upon a violation of the criminal statutes involving computer hacking and wire tapping laws. The husband has been charged with a felony and is scheduled to go to trial on February 7, 2011.
In my divorce practice, I see more and more cases where divorce, technology and issues involving wire tapping and the law intersect. Anyone going through a divorce should think carefully before tampering with your spouse's computer. My understanding of the law, at least in Michigan, is that tampering with email is similar to tampering with the U.S. Mail. You can look at an opened e-mail, just like you can view a letter that has been left after being opened and removed from the envelope. However, you cannot open e-mail that has not already been opened, just like you cannot open mail that is not addressed to you. I see so many cases where email has become a major issue in a divorce. The law in this area is changing, but technology is changing much more rapidly. If you are contemplating or going through a divorce, be careful. Tampering with email or hacking into your spouse's computer could lead to criminal charges. I even know of a case where the husband had set up spy-ware so that everything in the computer, even emails between the wife and her attorney, were made readily available to him. In some cases, I advise my clients to have their computers checked to make sure there is nothing being tapped or stolen. This is an area where one must be extremely careful. If you have stories or thoughts to share, please send them to me.