Footprints in Cyberspace. Divorce after 50 may include electronic evidence. Cheaters can be caught by using electronic evidence.
By Tom P Blake
Have you experienced cheating by a spouse or significant other? Did they think they were getting away with it without being caught? In the booming electronic age, they likely left (or, are leaving now) a trail of evidence that could come back to haunt them.
Also, Leaving a trail of electronic evidence could affect divorce outcome.
Older singles are aware of the incredible impact the Internet has had on the world of dating. It's the main tool used to bring people together, whether they live across town or across America.
As Internet usage continues to explode, new applications emerge. One of these is the use of the Internet as an evidence-gathering tool in divorce cases and matters of family law.
It's not only married couples who can be affected by electronic evidence; unwed couples can also fall under the umbrella, particularly if they share asset ownership.
With the increased sophistication of computers, cell phones, and even GPS devices in automobiles, private investigators hired by suspicious spouses, sweethearts and prying attorneys have new tools with which to generate evidence that can be used in court.
To learn more about the use of electronic evidence, in 2008, I interviewed James Hennenhoefer, the president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), a group of the top 1,600 family law attorneys throughout the nation.
(Tom’s comment in 2016: The president of AAML in October, 2016, is a woman named Joslin Davis. The link to the website remains the same.)
Hennenhoefer said, "Email takes the lead as the most commonly used form of technological evidence. In the Internet age, there is often a very clear trail that has been left behind and can be easily traced."
Tom’s comment in October, 2016: We all have heard endless comments about Hillary Clinton’s use of personal email servers during the 2016 presidential election. So, we can relate to what Mr. Hennehhoefer stated above in 2008.
A spouse or lover guilty of infidelity might think by hiding or destroying the computer or cell phone used to perpetuate an affair, they're off the hook. Not so, said Hennenhoefer: "The records of Internet Service Providers such as America Online or Yahoo! and telephone companies can be subpoenaed and used as evidence, even when the equipment is missing. Data taken from GPS systems in automobiles can be used as evidence."
Can you imagine this scenario? "Honey," the husband says, "I've never even been to Beverly Hills." The wife replies, "Then why does the GPS system in your Mercedes indicate you've been to the same woman's address in Beverly Hills 10 times in the last month?"
Whoops, caught red-handed by indisputable electronic evidence.
Hennenhoefer said, "AAML Fellows (lawyers) are hand-picked, the best of the best in all facets of family law. These areas include divorce, annulment, prenuptial, postnuptial, and marital settlement agreements, child custody, visitation and support, business and property valuations and divisions, and the rights of unmarried couples."
I asked Hennenhoefer about the affordability for ordinary people needing family law assistance.
Hennenhoefer said, "We will consider most family law cases. Our Fellows can refer cases not right for them to an associate, or to other very capable lawyers."
The AAML has 1,600 Fellows (attorneys) (in 2008)across the United States. To find a nearby AAML attorney, go to the homepage at www.aaml.org and click on the "Locate an Attorney" link.
I also asked Hennenhoefer whether electronic evidence presented in no-fault divorce states (like California) could influence a judge's decision.
He said, "Judges seek the truth. Electronic evidence is factual. When people lie under oath, it can destroy their creditability, which in a court of law can result in loss of assets or even custody of a child." He added that wives are more likely to make use of electronic evidence than husbands.
If a spouse or significant other thinks he or she can cheat and not get caught, or it won't matter if he or she gets caught, the cheater should think again. Cheating can leave an incriminating footprint in cyberspace that could prove to be very costly in the legal resolution of a relationship. Cheaters beware, big brother is watching you.
P.S. from Wallace in the week after this column ran:
Wallace: "Too bad New York Gov Eliot Spitzer didn't read last week's newsletter (on electronic evidence) before he dialed up that high-priced call-girl service. Your newsletter might not have mentioned the FBI as one of the groups that could be eavesdropping on an unfaithful spouse's communications, but it turns out that they're in on the spousal cheating as well, albeit from a different angle.