Is Snooping on a Spouse Legal?

We’re going to be frank: Spouses on the brink of divorce are in the habit of snooping on their spouses. It happens all the time. Often, the suspicious spouse is looking for evidence of an affair, or evidence of financial mismanagement. They’re looking for something, anything, to confirm their suspicions – whatever those are.

It’s no secret that today’s cellphones are a treasure trove of evidence. They contain social media direct messages, emails, text messages, bank and credit card information. Some people don’t even use a laptop or a PC because they have a smartphone!

The thing about these smartphones is that if a spouse is cheating or doing something behind their husband’s or wife’s back, they’ll almost always leave some kind of a digital trail and suspicious spouses are well-aware of this. So, usually the first place a suspicious husband or wife looks for evidence is their spouse’s cellphone. This knee-jerk reaction comes so naturally, people do it without putting much thought into it.

Types of evidence suspicious spouses are looking for:

  • Evidence of an affair via their spouse’s text messages.
  • Evidence of an affair through their spouse’s direct messages on social media accounts, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even LinkedIn.
  • Evidence of an affair through email messages.
  • Evidence of an affair through credit card purchases.
  • Evidence of hidden expenditures through credit card purchases.
  • Evidence of taking hidden cash withdrawals from a known or unknown bank account.
  • Evidence of risky investments.
  • Evidence of purchasing alcohol behind the spouse’s back (e.g. credit card purchases at bars or liquor stores).

Often, a suspicious spouse believes that if they find something, such as a bunch of racy direct messages on Facebook between their spouse and a romantic partner, they think they’ll be able to use the evidence in court to obtain more of the marital estate, or so they can avoid paying spousal support. It doesn’t work that way.

For starters, when spouses snoop on their spouse’s phones, they’re often breaking state or federal privacy laws. So, if they anger their cheating spouse, they could actually be opening themselves up to a civil suit for invasion of privacy. Secondly, illegally obtained evidence is not admissible in court.

Third, California is a no-fault divorce state, so no judge would be interested in seeing evidence of adultery, unless the cheating spouse wasted marital funds on the affair. If a cheating husband, for example, financially supported his girlfriend, that money can be deducted from his share of the divorce settlement and given to his wife.

Bottom line: If you want a divorce, it’s better to seek a collaborative divorce than an adversarial one which drains the marital funds. This way, you preserve the marital estate and avoid putting yourself through unnecessary stress.

Related: “8 Subtle Signs of a Cheating Spouse”

Contact Cutter & Lax to schedule a consultation with a board-certified family law specialist who has your best interests at heart.