Is your partner cheating on you? Maybe things aren’t adding up at home, so you decide to do a little snooping for evidence of infidelity. Taking a look at your partner’s smartphone would be a great place to start—does he or she have any compromising pictures or texts? But is it legal to do so?

These days snooping is made easy through technology such as keylogging software, hidden cameras or “nanny-cams”, and GPS devices that can help you in your snooping pursuits. But what do you do first? Do you install an app on his or her smartphone? Buy a fancy new gadget to do the dirty work? Hire a private investigator? Before you do anything, you should first find out if snooping electronically is even legal.

If you suspect that your partner is hiding something, your emotions will be running high. If your partner has been evasive, infuriated, or closed off and you don’t know why and can’t get a straight answer out of him or her, you need to get to the bottom on it. According to Great Neck NY private investigator Darrin Giglo, “When you think your partner is cheating on you, it’s easy to get emotional. That’s when you can get yourself into trouble.” Compound those emotions with the available technology and you may have an easy time of snooping around on your partner’s phone, laptop, or social media.

To get a sense of how pervasive social media and smartphones have become in our relationships, consider the following statistics:

  • More than one third of divorce filings contain the word Facebook
  • 80% of contested divorce cases now involve smartphones and/or computers
  • More than 80% of divorce attorneys in the United States agree that there has been a rise in the number of cases using social networking

If divorce is in the cards, then you may be looking for the evidence you need to bring to divorce court.

It is technically illegal to present stolen evidence in any court, but you may be able to find some evidence that will help your case. Here are some definite don’ts:

  • Don’t jump to conclusions. If a stranger calls his or her cell phone, ask your partner straight up who it is. It could just be his or her long-lost cousin trying to get back in touch!
  • Don’t try to intercept or record your partner’s emails or text messages. A court wil most likely throw this out if it was obtained without the person’s knowledge or permission.
  • Don’t record your calls or conversations without his or her permission. Again, even cheaters have the right to privacy when it comes to the law!
  • Don’t use “nanny-cams” or other listening devices in your house. You may uncover what’s going on if you use one of these devices, but it will be useless if you try to bring it out as evidence in court.

Bottom line: According to the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), it is illegal to intentionally access another person’s electronic communications without authorization to do so. In addition to this federal law, states will differ on the matter as well. For example, in New York the wiretapping statute is a “one-party consent” law, which means it is illegal to eavesdrop or record conversations unless one party consents to such so check your state regulations. It is also illegal to access any computer or electronic device without authorization under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1965.

If you are looking for ways to access your partner’s online information, you must do it legally and legitimately. A Google search, checking out their public LinkedIn profile, or hiring a private investigator are all legal options for you.

It is also worth remembering that even if you don’t find anything of value, that doesn’t mean your partner is trustworthy. Perhaps they are using a burner phone, an anonymous email account that you aren’t aware of, or they are already using apps or techniques to vanquish all of the evidence of cheating.

If you suspect your partner of cheating and your first impulse is to snoop, perhaps there are larger trust issues in your relationship that may need to be addressed before any snooping begins. Again, communication can go a long way to getting your relationship back on track or addressing what needs to be fixed before going any further.

Any kind of snooping indicates a lack of trust, personal insecurity, and a total disregard for a person’s legal right to privacy so think carefully before you do anything. Giglio reiterates that the number one thing that his clients get from catching a cheating partner is peace of mind. “You have clarity about what’s going on, and you can then decide if the relationship is worth saving.”

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