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Are your private emails as private as you think? It sounds pretty clear that anything you create or send over the very public internet could be admissible in a case if they provide evidence. But how those emails are obtained is as important as the information contained. If your emails were accessed without permission by your spouse, can those emails be used against you in a family law case? Let’s take a closer look. 

Reasonable Expectation of Privacy 

In the law, there’s something referred to as “reasonable expectation of privacy.” Typically, this refers to whether the government can access private data from citizens. Does it apply between individuals? Maybe. In the case of divorce, one can assume that each party has private information such as emails and phone calls. 

If the private information from one party is obtained by the other without permission, can this be used against them in the divorce case? 

Before or After Separation

In a recent case I worked on, it was determined that the defendant (in this case, the wife) had obtained information from her husband’s private email to present it for the case. It was intended to establish that he was having a relationship while still married to the defendant. However, the information was obtained by accessing private emails without permission. 

In this case, the communications were intercepted after the parties’ separation. It was due to the defendant’s suspicion that they snooped and found what they were looking for.  Since the wife did not have permission (even though she may have had the password for the account in the past – but being separated clearly implied that consent no longer existed) the communications she obtained were unlawful and therefore not admissible into evidence.   

Her attorney made a mistake.  The communications she obtained were not admissible.  HOWEVER, just because the communications were not admissible does not mean that her attorney could not have followed up on the information and proved the facts by other means. 

Method of Providing Details

So, can your former spouse provide your private emails or phone conversations that they obtained without permission as a part of their divorce case? That question is one that has to be answered in each specific instance.  

Private communications, emails, texts, recorded phone calls and videos, are essential evidence in divorce and child custody cases in the State of Georgia.  Even if, in the end, the obtained evidence is not admissible to the court, it does not mean it might not be useful and even critical to your case.  There are other ways to use evidence, even evidence that may not be directly admissible into evidence.

Acceptable Evidence

What is acceptable evidence to provide the courts and prove the claims that can affect your divorce or child custody case? All of the things we see from TV and movies may not be enough to convince a court. Hacking into their email or phone, as in this case, may not be admissible evidence. And if you follow them to catch them in the act, that may not be good for your case either.

This article from Divorce Magazine provides a little more detail to give you some insight. 

If you suspect your spouse is having an affair, your children are around people they should not be, if evidence involves emails, texts, videos, recorded phone calls, social media, GPS trackers or any electronic evidence, call Shaw Law Firm first to talk to us about your legal options.