Technology is increasingly becoming a tool for parties going through a divorce, but there are important legal ramifications to consider before you spy on your spouse.
Some spouses who were spied upon are now fighting back and suing for invasion of privacy. In addition, they may also have a claim under the New Jersey Wiretap Act (“NJWA”).
The law regarding spousal wiretapping is well settled in New Jersey. The NJWA makes it a crime to intercept or to record either a landline or cell phone conversation without the consent of at least one party to the phone call. Violating this law can lead to criminal prosecution as well as a civil suit for damages, which includes compensatory and punitive damages as well as counsel fees.
In 1991, a New Jersey trial court held in the case of M.G. v. J.C that a husband who recorded his wife’s telephone calls in an effort to prove she was having an affair must pay $10,000 in compensatory damages, $50,000 in punitive damages and his wife’s attorney’s fees.
Accessing a spouse’s e-mail communications is also prohibited under the NJWA. However, in the 2001 divorce case of White v. White, a trial court concluded that a wife did not violate the NJWA, because: (1) the e-mails were stored on a family computer which was not protected by a password; (2) the wife had regular access to the computer; and (3) she merely retrieved the e-mails after they had been electronically stored and did not intercept them.
Knowingly accessing information from your spouse’s computer or computer network without authorization and disclosing that information is a crime under subsection (a) of New Jersey statute N.J.S.A. 2C:20-31. If the information you disclose “is protected from disclosure by any law, court order or rule of court to others,” subsection (b) of that statute requires a period of imprisonment as part of the sentence upon conviction.
Use of PIN or Password
Using your spouse’s PIN or password to log into his/her accounts is likely a violation of the NJWA and is clearly a violation of a person’s common law right to privacy.
Although the law in New Jersey regarding technology and privacy is already well established, it continues to expand as new forms of social media develop.
Salvaggio Law Group LLC devotes its entire practice to New Jersey Divorce and Family Law matters.
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