Our office has had to deal with cases where one party suspects their spouse, rightly or wrongly, of having an affair. They have seen signs: staying out late at night, giving vague information about their whereabouts, coming home later than usual or when their spouse is leaving for work, being secretive about their text messages. This often leads to a spouse trying to be a private investigator and gather information.
In today’s world of technology, it is very easy for a spouse to become an amateur sleuth and bug telephone conversations, break into computers, and track where their soon-to-be ex is going.
In some of our articles, we have discussed the legality of spousal spying. It is legal in some circumstances, depending on the way it was done; but in others, it may not just be offensive but illegal, and possibly a marital tort. When our client is contemplating doing such things, we caution them from engaging in activity that is reckless or illegal.
Why Would My Spouse Spy on me?
There may be a number of reasons your spouse may be spying on you including:
- to see if you are drinking or using drugs
- to see if you are having an affair
- your spouse may be afraid you are gambling or have a spending problem
- your spouse may think you are only pretending to go to work
You may also be leaving a relationship where your ex is abusive, controlling, and has little regard for what is legal.
The focus of this blog will delve more into what is possible and steps that can be taken to help protect you against legal and illegal spying by your ex.
Trying to get an Advantage in the Divorce
Your spouse may also be trying to get an advantage for the divorce.
Although it is no longer necessary to plead fault in a divorce in Texas, you can still state specific grounds under section 6 of the Texas Family Code for ending your marriage, including:
- Living apart
- Confinement in a mental hospital
- Conviction of a felony
A court may give more of the community property to the "innocent" spouse if fault is proven in divorce.
How Can I tell if my Spouse is Spying on Me?
There are many ways your spouse may be spying on you in including:
- Monitoring your use of social media (such as Facebook)
- Cellphone Tracking
- Recording or having you “bugged”
- Spyware - monitoring your mail, email, phone calls, and text messages
- Tracking you or your vehicle using EZ-Tag or GPS
- Watching you via video surveillance such as a “nanny cam”
- Having you followed by a private investigator
- Following you personally
Social Media Accounts
We have discussed this topic before. However, I bring it up again because you and your social media account can be your own worst enemy in a divorce.
Your social media account such as Facebook can be a goldmine for your spouse to know about:
- Where you are
- What you are doing
- Who you are hanging out with and
- Much more
Even if you unfriend your spouse and change the security settings on your account, that will not prevent someone you are friends with supplying your ex with information.
One of the first things you may need to do is get a new cell phone. If you are on a shared plan with your ex, it may be very easy for them to track your whereabouts. Many cellphone carriers make it easy for people sharing the same plan to stalk each other.
The Phone Bill
There is the obvious factor of being able to look at your bill and see who your spouse is calling and texting.
This was how a wife I met with told me she found out that her husband was hiring hookers. Her husband travelled a lot for work. She got a feeling he was being unfaithful to her so she decided to get online and look the phone bill. She noticed a lot of weird calls / text messages late at night.
The wife started calling the numbers and they were all women. One woman she talked to confessed what she did. When she confronted her husband, at first he denied it but then when she told him what she had done he admitted that he had been having sex with hookers.
AT&T - Parental Controls / Family Map
If you are on AT&T, the account owner can add things to the plan such as parental controls or family map.
With the family map, your spouse can know where you are at all times. Your spouse can also block you from calling certain numbers or those numbers from being able to call you.
This happened in one of the cases we handled. Our client was in a relationship with a very controlling husband. This husband kept her from being able to go anywhere without his permission
He further isolated her by blocking her ability to call and speak with anyone he did not approve of including her parents.
Verizon - Parental Controls – FamilyBase / Family Locator
Verizon’s versions of these is same technology is FamilyBase and Family Locator.
FamilyBase can be used to control who a family member is allowed to call or receive calls from. Family Locator can be used to according to the website:
- locate your family anytime
- Receive arrival and departure updates
- Get an estimate on how fast they are driving
Sprint - Family Locator
Sprint family locator can be used to:
- real-time interactive satellite maps with street addresses and landmarks for family members.
- Restrict phone use
Change your Passwords
You are going to want to change all your passwords. It is not going to help you if you get a new phone that is not on your spouse’s plan if they can guess your password and still get into your account.
You will need to spend sometimes changing your passwords on ALL your accounts to something they will not be able to guess. Some important accounts to change your passwords on include:
- Phone carrier
- Bank and other Financial Accounts
- Apple / iPhone
iPhones & Other Smart Phones
I mention iPhones and Apple because there are larger concerns than your spouse purchasing movies or music and charging them to your iTunes account.
Find My iPhone
Apple devices are also set up so that you can use apple’s “Find My iPhone” feature.
This can be done by either getting online or downloading an app. This happened in a case where a wife took her daughter and ran away to a woman’s shelter. The husband showed up and demanded to see his wife and daughter.
The people at the shelter tried telling him that they were not there. The husband made such a scene that the cops had to be called. The cops later found out that the way he tracked them was by using Apple’s “Find My iPhone” feature.
Another thing you may want to check for is what apps are on your phone. There are various apps that can be downloaded on your phone to stalk you. Including an app that comes with most iPhones “Find Friends.”
Tape Recording your Spouse
We frequently get questions regarding using tape recorders or voice-activated recorders to catch their spouse. More and more, what we have been seeing is spouses who will use their phone to:
- Record their conversation with their spouse, using the phone as a tape recorder or
- Record their phone calls
- or even take videos of their interactions with their spouse
In a case that closed not too long ago, a wife had recordings on her phone of the husband admitting to all kinds of behavior from drug use to misusing the marital finances.
In another case, the wife had managed to catch her husband hitting her on video using her cellphone.
The basic rule in Texas regarding recordings is that you can record any conversation in which you are a participant. This means you do not need your spouse’s permission if you are taking part in the conversation.
Bugging your Spouse
The converse to the rule about being allowed to record conversations that you are a participant in is that you are not allowed to record conversation where you are not a participant. This means it is illegal to bug your spouse to catch them talking to other people.
However, just because it is illegal does not mean that it does not happen. One spouse that we represented was convinced her husband was doing just that. He always seems to know things that he should not know.
Eventually she found all kinds of weird listening devices around her home.
The recording devices do not even have to be a physical device. It can be your cellphone or computer. As mentioned earlier, various apps can be downloaded and used to stalk your location. There are also apps that can be used to:
- Monitor texting
- Monitor internet browsing
- Record phone calls
- Record location
- Track pictures taken
- Read emails
Most if not all of this would be illegal, but is possible.
If you suspect that your spouse may be spying on you, it would be a good idea to get your cellphone and computer looked for spyware.
Watching you via Video Surveillance such as a “Nanny Cam”
Many families use nanny cams to monitor nannies, maids, or other domestic workers. However, sometimes in a divorce, it can be used to snoop on their spouse.
Many spouses give into the temptation to try and catch your spouse fooling around with a Paramore and one tool they use is the nanny cam.
Are Nanny Cams Legal?
Yes, they are in Texas. However, you cannot:
- Record any conversation in which you are not a participant.
- You cannot record private areas of the home, such as a bathroom or bedroom.
This means you can only record in common areas and in most circumstances video without sound.
EZ-Tag and Other Electronic Toll Tags
Much like your phone, if you share an EZ-Tag or other electronic toll account with your spouse, you will want to get your own and remove your name from that shared account.
The EZ-Tag toll tag in the Houston area is a quick and easy way to pay for tolls. It also, however, lets someone know where you are at that exact moment and in which direction you are headed.
In most circumstances, this is not a big deal. However, this can be problematic if you are going through a contentious divorce or breakup. Two separate cases come to mind where the EZ-Tag was an issue.
Case #1 – Stalking
In one case, a husband used the EZ-Tag to stalk his wife and figure out where she was going. He was convinced that she was cheating on him with her boss. Using the EZ-Tag, he was able to learn:
- what part of town she was in
- at hours that to him were suspicious
- which happened to be the same part of town her boss lived in
Case #2 – Running Up Tolls
In another case, the wife kept using the EZ-Tag to run up tolls. In that case, the husband did not really want to know where the wife was going but it bugged him that she wouldn’t stop using the EZ-Tag and felt like she should be paying that bill.
OnStar and other GPS Navigation Systems
One of the best-known GPS navigation systems is OnStar. With OnStar, it can find out where your car is. This can be helpful:
- in a medical emergency, or
- if your car is stolen
As with the previous scenario, this can be problematic when your ex is using this tool to track your whereabouts. One of our clients had this problem. I suggested she take it to the dealer for help either disabling or removing it from her vehicle.
Tiwi and other GPS Tracking Devices
Several simple devices are now on the market that allow you to track where, when, and even how fast someone is driving.
One example of this is the Tiwi, which is marketed to parents to be able to keep track of their teen drivers. It plugs into the car's vehicle diagnostics port. It may be a good idea to have your car thoroughly checked for such devices.
Locking your Credit Report
Another thing to consider is to lock your credit reports. Locking your credit is also known as a credit freeze. This is normally used as a tool that lets you restrict access to your credit report, which in turn makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.
We generally suggest this option to clients who are concerned their spouse may try and open accounts in their name. However, you might also want to consider putting a lock on your credit so a less-than-ethical spouse cannot pull your credit to see what you have been doing.
This may not give an ex the same play by play information as having online access to your credit card or debit card. However, this issue came up recently and so it makes the list.
How Can I Protect Myself from Spousal Spying?
The internet and other technology has made surveillance by private individuals much easier for those who are willing to pay some money and put forth the effort. However, it is possible to take steps to make it more difficult for your spouse to spy on you even without knowledge of the technology your spouse may be using.
These steps include:
- installing a firewall on your computer
- password protection, and
- encryption software
A Firewall helps prevent unwanted access to your computer from the Internet.
Password protection is available on most email programs and websites including financial institutions.
One example would be two-step verification. Two-step verification is a process that involves two authentication methods. These are performed one after the other to verify that the person requesting access is who they are supposed to be.
This could be as simple as getting a text message with a code after you plug in your password. You would then plug in the code and have access to the account. Anyone who doesn’t know your password and have your cellphone would not be able to access the account.
Encryption software is one method of sending electronic messages in a format that prevents someone without “decrypting” software be able to read them.
If you want to know more about what you can do, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: “16 Steps to Help You Plan & Prepare for Your Texas Divorce”
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Dos and Don'ts Regarding Electronic Communications in a Texas Divorce
- Legalities of spying on a child's cell phone in Texas
- Can I Sue My Ex for Hacking My Computer in My Texas Divorce?
- Cell Phones, Mail, Computers, Spying on your Spouse, and Privacy Rights in a Spring, Texas Divorce
- Do I Need to Change My Passwords for a Divorce in Texas?
- How Social Media Can Hurt You in Divorce
- Why do divorces cost so much in Texas?
- How Can I Get My Spouse to Pay My Attorney's Fees in a Texas Divorce?
- How Much Will My Texas Divorce Cost?
- Can I sue my spouse's mistress in Texas?
Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our divorcelawyers in Houston 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, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles divorcecases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, 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.