No matter how long you’ve been married, you are likely aware of your spouse’s habits with regard to his or her cellphone. Charles, for example, noticed that his wife had started going outside to take calls on her phone, particularly in the evening. Lately, she’d begun keeping closer tabs on her phone, taking it with her into the bathroom and even hiding it when she went to bed at night. Soon after that, she changed the address to which the bill for her phone was sent. The confluence of these changes first perplexed Charles and then raised his suspicions. What should he do and not do?
First, let’s address the don’ts. It’s important that Charles not overreact before he’s planned his next steps and gathered what information is available. A careful, judicious approach will include keeping his cards close to his vest and making thoughtful decisions.
In addition, it is important that Charles not violate the law. Federal and state privacy statutes protect information communicated through and stored on cellphones in certain situations. These laws differ in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. Charles needs to understand the limitations of the applicable laws before he takes any actions which might subject him to criminal liability or could mean that any information he gathered would be inadmissible in a court of law.
Charles should take affirmative steps to safeguard himself, which would mean first scheduling an initial interview with an experienced family law attorney. Topics to be addressed at this meeting should include understanding the privacy laws mentioned above, as well as understanding the legal standard for proving that a spouse has been unfaithful. In addition, his attorney can develop a plan for legally accessing and preserving the information contained on his wife’s cell phone. Before meeting with the attorney, it would be helpful for Charles to make notes about the exact nature of the changed behavior and how frequently it occurs.
So, if you are concerned that your spouse’s changed cellphone behavior may mean an affair, be thoughtful and methodical in developing and carrying out a plan to address your concerns and protect yourself in a divorce.