Today’s blog topic is inspired by some cases and consults I have had where a spouse has gone out of their way to try and embarrass their spouse.
This is done for a variety of reasons:
- To teach their ex a lesson
- To try and achieve a strategic advantage
In order to prepare our readers for what they might expect during the Texas divorce process, we will explore the various ways some spouses have tried to embarrass their soon-to-be ex. We will also discuss some things you should consider before you go down the path.
Serving Your Spouse in an Embarrassing Place
Serving divorce papers at work is perhaps the most commonly employed way that some spouses embarrass their ex. This one may be done either intentionally or out of necessity.
One reason this may be done (other than malice) is that serving them at work or some other embarrassing place may be the only way to get a spouse served because the spouse is trying to avoid service or will not let anyone know where they are currently living.
However, some of my clients have sworn that it was done intentionally only to embarrass them. Often in these cases they were still living in the same home, so there was no reason why it could not have been done at the house rather then while they were at work.
Recently one of my co-workers was telling me of how her husband’s brother had been served. I thought under the circumstances it was in very bad taste. The brother had been in a car accident and was in the hospital. The process server showed up and laid the paperwork on him while he was lying in bed and told him he had been served.
Something to keep in mind is that although there may be satisfaction in such gestures, at some point in the future you may find that your spouse will retaliate and find a way to embarrass you. This can lead to your divorce turning into a very expensive, long, and embarrassing divorce.
Revealing Personal Information to Friends and Family
In one of our Houston divorce cases, we represented a wife who as accused of adultery. In that case, the only evidence the husband had of the adultery were some very graphic emails and online chat sessions.
Our readers will know that Texas upholds the literal definition of adultery, thus graphic emails and chats might be considered cheating, but those alone would not meet the legal definition of adultery. Depending on the content, they might be evidence that adultery has taken place.
For revenge, the husband in that case let family members and friends know about the emails and chats.
Perhaps a more famous example of this would be when Tiger Woods’ wife released a bunch of his text messages showing that her husband had been having affairs.
Unlike in Tiger Woods’ case, your text messages, chats, or emails are unlikely to land you on late night talk shows or celebrity gossip sites.
However, you should keep in mind that just like in these two cases, your communications may eventually become part of a divorce or family law case, or perhaps may be revealed to friends or family in an act of spite by your ex.
Confronting the Paramore
Two of our law firm’s most popular blog topics are “Can I sue the mistress?” and “Is adultery against the law?” It should not be surprising that I often get asked about confronting the mistress.
This confrontation takes various forms:
- Showing up the residence of the mistress
- Subpoena the mistress to appear in court as a witness
- Deposing the mistress
The motivations for doing any of the above vary. If there is a lot of property at stake, proving adultery would be a reason to ask for a disproportionate share of the property.
When there is not a lot property at stake, then the motive is more likely revenge by embarrassing the mistress or the spouse. You may not be able to undo the fact that your spouse has cheated on you, but you can force them and the mistress to:
- Appear in court and answer embarrassing questions asked by a Houston divorce lawyer or
- Sit in a room with your attorney and answer embarrassing questions
Revenge porn is another way a divorcing spouse can embarrass their ex. Revenge porn occurs when:
- Someone obtains intimate pictures or videos of a person during the course of a personal relationship, and
- Posts the pictures online after the relationship ends.
Many victims of revenge porn reported being threatened, harassed, stalked, fired from jobs, or being forced to change schools.
In its earliest stages, there was not a great legal remedy for these victims. In response to the problem in 2015, the Texas Legislature passed new statutes relating to revenge porn.
To my knowledge, none of my clients have been threatened with revenge porn. However, revenge porn was an issue in at least one of my cases. Our office represented a husband and father against the wife and mother.
In this case, she had filmed her encounters with her boyfriend who also happened to be married. Things must not have worked out between the two because she threatened to not only send the film to his wife but also to the school where he worked if he did not pay her off. Her boyfriend ended up paying the money and she sent the film anyway.
She then discovered that what she had done violated several Texas laws, two of which are discussed below. When she was charged, the case made the news. She also ended up losing custody in court.
Under Texas Penal Code section 21.16.
A person commits the offense of “unlawful disclosure or promotion of intimate visual material” by disclosing, threatening to disclose, or promoting what is commonly referred to as “revenge porn.”
A person commits an offense by disclosing revenge porn if:
- Without the effective consent of the depicted person, the person intentionally discloses visual material depicting another person with the person's intimate parts exposed or engaged in sexual conduct;
- The visual material was obtained by the person or created under circumstances in which the depicted person had a reasonable expectation that the visual material would remain private;
- The disclosure of the visual material causes harm to the depicted person; and
- The disclosure of the visual material reveals the identity of the depicted person in any manner.
A person commits an offense by threatening to disclose revenge porn if the person intentionally threatens to disclose, without the consent of the depicted person, visual material depicting another person with the person's intimate parts exposed or engaged in sexual conduct and the actor makes the threat to obtain a benefit:
- in return for not making the disclosure; or
- in connection with the threatened disclosure.
A person can also commit an offense by promoting revenge porn if, knowing the character and content of the visual material, the person promotes the visual material on an Internet website or other forum for publication that is owned or operated by the person.
Civil Cause of Action – CPRC Ch. 98B
Not only did the legislature make revenge porn punishable as a crime, it also created a civil cause of action. In 2015, the Texas Legislature also created a cause of action for victims of revenge porn.
This means the person who posted the video:
- Can be sued for financial damages by the victim; and
- Can be held criminally responsible for their behavior
A defendant is liable to a person depicted in intimate visual material for damages arising from the disclosure of the material if:
- The defendant discloses the intimate visual material without the effective consent of the depicted person;
- The intimate visual material was obtained by the defendant or created under circumstances in which the depicted person had a reasonable expectation that the material would remain private;
- The disclosure of the intimate visual material causes harm to the depicted person; and
- The disclosure of the intimate visual material reveals the identity of the depicted person in any manner.
A defendant is liable to a person depicted in intimate visual material for damages arising from the promotion of the material if knowing the character and content of the material, the defendant promotes intimate visual material…on an Internet website or other forum for publication that is owned or operated by the defendant.
A plaintiff can sue for actual damages, mental anguish damages, attorney's fees, and exemplary damages. A court can also grant injunctions against the disclosure or promotion, and the code provides for statutory damages of $500-$1,000.
Understandably, people going through a Texas divorce are not always at their best. People going through a divorce will often say or do things that are hurtful because of the roaring emotions at play. Another way people can get themselves in trouble is online impersonation.
One instance where this may have taken place made the news on June 25, 2015 when ex Galveston Judge Chris Dupuy was arrested for creating fake escort ads that purported to be posted by his former girlfriend.
The ads featured the women’s photos, and made clear that at least one of them was “VERY FETISH FRIENDLY.” These ads were traced back to Chris Dupuy, who was charged with two counts of online impersonation.
He then spent 11 months in a Galveston County jail awaiting trial, after which a Galveston County District Court judge tossed the charges, calling the statute used overbroad.
Texas Penal Code 33.07 was a relatively new statute passed by the legislature in 2009. This statute is often known as the cyberstalking statute.
Under Texas Penal Code 33.07. ONLINE IMPERSONATION
(a) A person commits an offense if the person, without obtaining the other person's consent and with the intent to harm, defraud, intimidate, or threaten any person, uses the name or persona of another person to:
- create a web page on a commercial social networking site or other Internet website; or
- post or send one or more messages on or through a commercial social networking site or other Internet website, other than on or through an electronic mail program or message board program.
(b) 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.
(c) 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.
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Spring Divorce Lawyer
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