Dos and Don'ts Regarding Electronic Communications in a Texas Divorce

It never ceases to amaze me what people post or email each other during a divorce in Texas. I have had clients bring in pictures that they obtained from Facebook of the opposing party:

  1. using drugs
  2. with stacks of cash

These were in cases where either custody was at issue or the opposing party was claiming not to have any money so they should not have to pay child support or that child support should be minimal. My office was of course happy to introduce these pictures in court as evidence against the opposing party.

We have written previously about being careful of how use social media and will post links to those articles below. In this article, we will continue that discussion by making suggestions of what to do and not to do when using electronic communications during your divorce in Texas.

THE DON'TS

Think twice about using Social Network Sites

This includes sites such as Facebook or MySpace. As discussed above they can be a treasure trove of information for the opposing side. Even if you do not post anything, you cannot stop someone else from posting comments or pictures. Maybe your smart enough to post incriminating photos of yourself on Facebook but are your friends?

Do Not Tweet

Tweeting can give the opposition a perfect timeline of your whereabouts and actions. I have had clients bring in tweets showing that other parent was tweeting about being at a party when the child is supposed to be in his or her care. It was very nice of the opposing party to provide us with this incriminating information.

Don't Spy on Your Spouse's Computer

We have discussed this before and will post those articles below.

It is now a crime to access someone's computer without their consent. Texas Penal Code Section 33.02. You need to be aware of the possible criminal penalties. Texas Penal Code Section 33.02 states:

  1. A person commits an offense if the person knowingly accesses a computer, computer network or computer system without effective consent of the owner.
  2. A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly gives a password, identifying code, personal identification number, debit card number, bank account number or other confidential information about a computer security system to another person without the effective consent of the person employing the computer security system to restrict access to a computer, computer network, computer system or data.
  3. An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor unless the actor's intent is to obtain a benefit or defraud or harm another, in which event the offense is:
    • a state jail felony if the value of the benefit or the amount of the loss or harm is less than $20,000; or
    • a felony of the third degree if the value of the benefit or the amount of the loss or harm is $20,000 or more.
  1. A person who is subject to prosecution under this section and any other section of this code may be prosecuted under either or both sections.

Don't Harass Anyone Online

Harassing people online has become a popular intimidation tactic. One incident of notoriety has become known as “gamergate.” In which several women in the video game industry were the subject of a harassment campaign using social sites such as twitter to post harassing comments, personal information such home addresses and personal phone numbers online. This then lead to harassing phone calls and letters to these woman.

As of September 1, 2009, it is a third-degree felony to use another person's name to post a message on a social networking site without that person's consent if the intent is to harm, defraud, intimidate or threaten. Texas Penal Code 33.07 was amended to read as follows:

  1. A person commits an offense if the person uses the name or persona of another person to create a web page on or to post one or more messages on a commercial social networking site:
    • without obtaining the other person’s consent; and
    • with the intent to harm, defraud, intimidate, or threaten any person.
  1. A person commits an offense if the person sends an electronic mail, instant message, text message, or similar communication that references a name, domain address, phone number, or other item of identifying information belonging to any person:
  • without obtaining the other person’s consent;
  • with the intent to cause a recipient of the communication to reasonably believe that the other person authorized or transmitted the communication; and
  • with the intent to harm or defraud any person.
  • An offense under Subsection (a) is a felony of the third degree. An offense under Subsection (b) is a Class A misdemeanor, except that the offense is a felony of the third degree if the actor commits the offense with the intent to solicit a response by emergency personnel.
  • If conduct that constitutes an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under any other law, the actor may be prosecuted under this section, the other law, or both.
  • It is a defense to prosecution under this section that the actor is any of the following entities or that the actor’s conduct consisted solely of action taken as an employee of any of the following entities:
    • a commercial social networking site;
    • an Internet service provider;
    • an interactive computer service, as defined by 47 U.S.C. Section 230;
    • a telecommunications provider, as defined by Section 51.002, Utilities Code; or
    • a video service provider or cable service provider, as defined by Section 66.002, Utilities Code.
  • In this section:
  • “Commercial social networking site” means any business, organization, or other similar entity operating a website that permits persons to become registered users for the purpose of establishing personal relationships with other users through direct or real-time communication with other users or the creation of web pages or profiles available to the public or to other users. The term does not include an electronic mail program or a message board program.
  • “Identifying information” has the meaning assigned by Texas Penal Code Section 32.51.

Do Not Use "Rewards" Cards

Many businesses such as grocery stores have "rewards cards,” that in exchange for when a cardholder checks out and uses the card gets a discount or coupons.

However, using these cards also creates a record of everything that was purchased. For example, if someone shops at a grocery store and writes a check you will not be able to tell what was purchased.

However, if a record is obtained using the rewards card information you might find out that six cases of beer was purchased instead of groceries.

THE DOS

Change Passwords

You should consider immediately and on a regular basis changing all of your passwords. This includes:

  1. email passwords
  2. Financial accounts such as bank account passwords
  3. social network passwords

Your new password should not be:

  1. Any password you have previous used or
  2. A password that is available to your the spouse or that your spouse could guess such as the child's birth date or an anniversary date.

Change Email Addresses

You might want to consider setting up an entirely new email account just for correspondence between our office and you.

Even changing passwords is not always sometimes is not enough to protect from someone hacking into the your email.

There are websites out there that offer to help break into email accounts. By using a new email address and changing your password regularly it will make it that much more difficult for your ex to gain access to your email.

Change PIN Numbers

You should be change immediately personal identification numbers for:

  1. debit cards
  2. credit cards and
  3. bank cards

As discussed above your new PIN should be one not easily guessed.

Be Aware of Keyloggers and Spyware

It is not uncommon for spouses to use programs known as keyloggers or spyware. This often true when your spouse can gain access to your computer at home. It may be a good idea to take your computer to a specialist who can check to see if any of these programs or on your computer.

Consider Every Conversation as Recorded

Going forward you should assume that every conversation you have with your spouse is being recorded. This can take the form of:

  1. Audio Recording or
  2. Video Recording

There all kinds of devices out there which making video or audio recordings easy. This can be as easy as hitting the record feature on your smart phone or download an app to record a cell phone conversation.

Whenever you write a text message or email write it with the knowledge that a judge will be reading it later.

Your Cell Phones May be Used Against You

There are programs that exists that can allow someone to listen to every conversation and see every text message on your phone without your knowledge. This is illegal but those programs still exist. Be careful what you say or text on your phone.

Deleted Information Can still be Recovered

Even though you delete:

  1. Your text messages
  2. digital documents
  3. incoming and outgoing calls or
  4. voice messages

it may still be possible to recover this information. Be careful how you use your phone and computer.

Be Aware of your Surroundings

Although technology is available that makes spying easier sometimes spouses use older methods of spying including private investigators.

A private investigator will be able to track your comings and goings. Be aware when you are travelling anyone could be following you. If you are not doing something wrong, then there is not anything to be a concerned about.

Be Aware of Web Browsing Histories

The web browser you use to visit websites keeps track of every website you visit on the internet. If you do not want the judge knowing:

  1. what websites you visit on the internet
  2. or write or say on the internet

Be careful where you go, what you write, or say on the internet.

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Other Articles you may be interested in:

  1. Can I Sue My Ex for Hacking My Computer in My Texas Divorce?
  2. Cell Phones, Mail, Computers, Spying on your Spouse, and Privacy Rights in a Spring, Texas Divorce
  3. Do I Need to Change My Passwords for a Divorce in Texas?
  4. Legalities of spying on a child’s cell phone in Texas
  5. How Social Media Can Hurt You in Divorce
  6. Why do divorces cost so much in Texas?
  7. How Can I Get My Spouse to Pay My Attorney's Fees in a Texas Divorce?
  8. How Much Will My Texas Divorce Cost?
  9. Can I sue my spouse's mistress in Texas?
  10. Roadmap of Basic Divorce Procedure in Texas

Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Spring, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our divorce lawyers in Spring TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan handles Divorce cases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.

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