Electronic Snooping & Divorce

Illinois Divorce Lawyer Serving Clients in Chicago

If you are currently going through a difficult and contentious divorce, you may be concerned that your spouse has engaged in electronic snooping, or you may even wonder what the ramifications might be if you decide to do some electronic snooping of your own. In short, electronic snooping—which can range from recording private conversations over Skype to reading your ex-spouse’s emails without his or her permission—can be illegal in the state of Illinois. It is important to understand when electronic snooping can be illegal, and when exceptions to the rule can permit evidence from electronic snooping to come into a divorce case in Chicago.

If you have questions about electronic snooping and divorce, a Chicago divorce attorney can assist with your case.

Eavesdropping Law and How It Relates to Electronic Snooping

When most of us hear the term eavesdropping, we think of a scenario in which we physically overhear another person’s conversation. However, according to Illinois law (720 ILCS 5/14-1), eavesdropping can also involve snooping into private electronic communications, such as Skype conversations, texts, or email messages.

The statute defines “private electronic communication” as “any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, pager, computer, electromagnetic, photo electronic or photo optical system, when the sending or receiving party intends the electronic communication to be private under circumstances reasonably justifying the expectation.” In other words, if a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy with regard to an electronic communication, then snooping may be a violation of the law.

There are only a handful of exceptions to the law. First, we should note that, if both parties consent to the recording of or snooping into a private conversation, the statute likely will not apply. Without consent, some of the following may be exceptions to the rule:

  • Electronic communication is not “surreptitious.” In other words, if the private electronic communication is out in the open, then the law may not apply.
  • Eavesdropping was designed to collect evidence of a crime.

The federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 also prohibits certain forms of electronic snooping.

When Electronic Communications Are Out in the Open and May Be Used in Divorce Proceedings

There are many forms of electronic communications that are not private and that may be able to function as evidence in a divorce proceeding. Most often, these kinds of communications are on social media sites, such as:

  • Facebook;
  • Twitter; and
  • Instagram.

There are other social media sites in which electronic communication may not be private for the purposes of state or federal law. It is important to emphasize, however, that email accounts and text messaging accounts are not likely to be exceptions to the rule.

Contact a Chicago Divorce Lawyer

If you are concerned that your ex is engaging in electronic snooping, or if you have questions about whether certain electronic information is relevant to your case, an experienced Chicago divorce lawyer can help. Contact Arami Law Office to speak with an advocate about your case.

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