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Modern technology an obstacle to keeping secrets in divorce

Photo of Karen Lavin

Smartphones and other electronic media are commonplace in Illinois homes. But while technology allows us to stay in touch with others better, it can also facilitate relationships that could lead to the dissolution of a marriage. Yet the very thing that helps furtive liaisons along can be what brings them to light.

Experts say that advances in technology have made it easier than ever to find out what one's spouse is up to. For example, it does not cost a lot of money to buy surveillance software to monitor a partner's online activity. Such software is capable of recording passwords and can even take pictures of what a person in looking at on the screen. Such evidence can eventually make its way into divorce proceedings.

But the danger is not just limited to technology designed for surveillance. Electronic data may be convenient for communication, but it is tough to eliminate. Nearly all top divorce attorneys have seen a sharp increase over the past three years in divorce cases that have used text messages and other smartphone communications as evidence. Divorce experts have also seen a rise in the use of Facebook pages, GPS trackers--which can be found in most smartphones--and Internet search histories.

At least one divorce attorney has gone so far as to say that anyone who emails is just asking for trouble, but others say that at least email gives writers time to think about what they are putting down. Short, blurb-style electronic communication, such as texting, is literally "instant messaging." Once a stream-of-consciousness message is sent, there is no taking it back.

The best advice seems to be to slow down before sending something that could potentially be incriminating. Just as it is a good idea to think about what one is going to say before talking, it is also generally a good idea to consider what one is writing before enshrining it in an enduring format that could come back to haunt that person.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Keeping secrecy a common thread in most divorces," Bonnie Miller Rubin, Oct. 10, 2012

Source: Reuters, "Be careful what you text if you're heading for divorce," Patricia Reaney, Feb. 20, 2012

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