By Gerri Elder
When you suspect a spouse of cheating, you may have the urge to do some private investigating on your own to get the truth. While there may be things that you can find out on your own, there are also certain precautions you can take.
Divorce lawyers often report seeing clients who come into the office with a stack of printed e-mail correspondence, excited or relieved that there is proof that their spouse is having an affair.
The first question that a divorce lawyer will generally ask is exactly how the evidence was found. In some divorce cases, accessing an e-mail account without authorization of the owner can be a serious crime – even if the owner is your spouse. Additionally, unless explicit permission was given to access the e-mail account, whatever is found is generally not admissible as evidence in divorce court.
There is software that makes it possible to download text messages from cell phones to a computer and even recover deleted text messages. Some programs also make it possible to view all numbers dialed to text messaged by a phone or wireless device; however, although this is possible it's not advisable.
If a phone doesn't belong to you, it may be illegal to attempt to view and extract text messages, access voice mail or view contact lists. Even if a hard copy of damaging text messages were obtained, it would likely not be admissible in divorce court.
Many chat and IM programs keep a log - a recording of private Internet conversations. Even if these logs are deleted, they can still sometimes be recovered. Whether or not this type of evidence is admissible in divorce court may depend greatly on circumstances.
If a computer belongs to and is used solely by one spouse, it may be a violation of law for the other spouse to extract information from it without authorization. This is especially true if the computer is password protected and the snooping spouse gets around security to access the data. Any illegally obtained evidence is unlikely to be used in divorce court.
However, if a family computer that is used by both spouses contains damaging information, a spouse who discovers this information may be allowed to use it as evidence of infidelity during divorce. People are often unaware of what information computers actually record and retain.
In some cases, divorce courts have held unprotected data on a family computer is fair game for use as evidence. Courts may consider information that's not password protected and is discovered on a family computer to be similar to situations where a spouse finds a note from a lover in the family car or in a pocket while doing laundry.
While it may be tempting to try to get the dirt on your spouse by yourself, great care must be used to not to violate privacy laws. In many cases, taking the traditional route of hiring a private investigator - who should be aware of and operate within the laws - may be your best bet.
The above article is merely a summary and is not legal advice. For advice on obtaining evidence,speak to a divorce attorney in your area.