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

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

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.

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.

The Don’ts: Essential Pitfalls to Avoid in Your Texas Divorce

Divorce, while challenging, also comes with critical pitfalls that can significantly impact the outcome. This section delves into the “Don’ts” – common mistakes and missteps you should avoid during your Texas divorce. Understanding these potential pitfalls is crucial for protecting your interests and ensuring a more favorable resolution.

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.
  4. 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

Online harassment, as highlighted by the notorious “Gamergate” incident, has become an increasingly prevalent issue. This event, involving severe harassment of women in the video game industry through social sites like Twitter, including posting personal information and addresses, underscores the seriousness of this problem.

In response, Texas law has evolved to protect individuals from such digital harassment. As of September 1, 2009, Texas Penal Code 33.07 criminalizes the use of another person’s identity on social networking sites to harm, defraud, intimidate, or threaten without consent. This law covers the creation of web pages and the posting of messages under another’s identity with malicious intent.

Key Provisions of Texas Penal Code 33.07:

It’s a third-degree felony to use someone’s identity without consent to harm, intimidate, or defraud.
Sending emails, texts, or similar communications using another’s identity to mislead recipients into believing it was authorized by the victim, with the intent to harm or defraud, is a criminal offense. This can range from a Class A misdemeanor to a third-degree felony, depending on the intent to elicit an emergency response.

Exceptions to this law include employees of commercial social networking sites, Internet service providers, interactive computer services, telecommunications, and video or cable service providers, provided the conduct falls within their employment scope.

Definitions:

A “commercial social networking site” is defined as a website allowing registered users to establish personal relationships, communicate in real-time, or create public profiles.
Identifying information” is as defined in Texas Penal Code Section 32.51.
This law affirms Texas’s commitment to combating online harassment while outlining the legal boundaries and exceptions, ensuring both protection for victims and clarity for users of digital platforms.