It happens. All the time. The client in the throes of divorce or separation – sitting in our law offices, growing more indignant by the minute…
“…AND she’s actually planning on getting a RESTRAINING ORDER against me! LOOK AT THIS! Can you believe this crap???!” He shoves an email across the table. It’s an exchange between the wife and her attorney.
“Did you log in to her email account to get this?” I ask. Cue the sheepish look. Lights down on the devilish smirk. “Cut. It. Out…” I say in no uncertain terms. Thus begins a very serious discussion about self-control, respect and how to get fired by your lawyer.
Spousal/partner spying is a common occurrence in divorce and paternity cases. We see it most often in people who have a control-freak streak. Those driven to “get even” in divorce do it all the time. These folks are horribly misguided by their internal compass. Let me emphasize the descriptor, “misguided”– for that’s EXACTLY what this kind of behavior is, and it leads nowhere but down the road to Hell.
If it has crossed your mind to snoop in your ex’s business, whether through online forays or by in-person stalking, read this first and then, for the Love of Mike, please reconsider:
The Attorney-Client Privilege. Communications between a person and their attorney are generally privileged and confidential under State and Federal law.
Invasion of Privacy and Other Criminal Law Violations. Logging into non-joint email, medical and financial accounts, without permission, is against both State and Federal privacy laws. In California, there are severe consequences under the Family Code and the Penal Code. Many instances are considered felonies and misdemeanors, bringing monetary fines and jail time (yes, you read that right). Spousal spying violates Invasion of Privacy and, where computers are accessed without permission, Larceny (theft of property) laws in the California Penal Code. Violations can result in criminal and civil penalties – and jeopardize your future employment, credit and other impacts to your future success.
Restraining Order Time! Online and in-person stalking, snooping and surveillance of an ex will likely get you slapped with a domestic violence restraining order. Restraining orders can have a significant impact on spousal support awards.
Kiss Your Lawyer Goodbye. Got a great lawyer? You won’t for long if you snoop and stalk. All great lawyers will admonish you not to snoop. If you do it anyway, chances are we’ll fire you. After all, we aren’t going to stick our necks out for a client who won’t follow the rules and take our learned advice. Why? Because, it becomes nearly impossible to get the wayward client a great result when they don’t trust the attorney’s advice and guidance. And that makes for an unhappy client. Life’s too short.
In the end, it is the smart client who listens to their experienced attorney’s advice, follows the law and gets help from therapists and others when tempted to go astray.
Spying gets you nowhere. It gets you heartache and trouble, and never an advantage.
It also takes your focus off the long-term, productive goals of getting the marital dispute over with quickly. Getting past the ugliness, and on to bigger and better things is the goal.
And that’s the real outcome you want, right?
My best for your bright future,
Kelly A. Bennett, Esq. is the Managing and Founding Attorney at Bennett & Bennett, APC in Temecula, California. We believe you and your family deserve a big, bright future. We believe you deserve great lawyers who are also great people…you know, the kind of loyal, inner circle people who stand with you, shoulder to shoulder, through life’s greatest challenges and biggest wins. You can get through conflict with kindness, dignity and respect – if that’s what you want, we’re here to make it happen.