Technology in Divorce and Custody Cases: Who’s Zoomin’ Who?

Technology in Divorce and Custody Cases: Who’s Zoomin’ Who?

By: Lawrence C. Welsh, Esquire

Other than putting you in mind of the fabulous 1985 release from Aretha Franklin, the question is apropos these days in family law matters, referring to who may be using what sorts of intrusive GPS tools, spyware, or other technology to “jump off the hook” as Aretha put it.

With the variety and sophistication of technology now available to those on opposing sides of divorce and custody cases, the courts are finding more and more cases in which both sides have secrets to tell. The legal questions about the admissibility of the evidence (whether the court will listen to those secrets) and about the legality of obtaining it (whether the spy is in trouble for the way s/he learned those secrets) continue to evolve. The familiar starting point is to determine if the one who got “zoomed” had a “reasonable expectation of privacy, and it is becoming increasingly clear that “secrets” left on a shared family computer, accessible to other members of the household, will not be considered private. Alternatively however, secrets kept under password protection or secured on separate parts of a shared computer will likely be protected. There are also cases in which the “Zoomer,” who may have “thought they had it covered,” perhaps by making a secret recording of the other party, becomes the one facing sanctions from the court.

To keep from being “Zoomed,” delete social media accounts, check your computer for spyware devices that may have been installed, have your vehicle checked for a surreptitiously installed GPS unit, and recognize that anything which is available on shared devices or media is probably fair-game. Courts in custody cases will likely be balancing the best interest of the child(ren) with the privacy concerns of the adults, and divorce courts determining financial affairs will do a similar balancing act. In both forums, it is not uncommon to see the scales tip from one side to the other as the Court answers Aretha’s question: “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?”


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About the author

About Lawrence Welsh

A funny thing happened to Larry (Lawrence C. Welsh) on the way to his professional career in the practice of law. After graduating from college and before entering law school, he took an extended tour through the hospitality industry, working his way through both the service and business sides of hotels, restaurants and resorts in six states and the District of Columbia. Taking the business acumen and the ever-watchful attention to detail so well-honed during that experience into his lifelong passion to practice law has led Larry to his position as Chief Legal Counsel and head of the firm’s Forensic Support Team. Before joining the firm, Larry worked in the public defender’s office, through which he added an array of advocacy skills and trial experience to his resume. Since joining the firm in 2003, Larry has handled a full range of family law issues, which he continues to do, while lending experience and direction to others in the firm, particularly where and when the resources of the Forensic Support Team are most appropriate. Larry is also licensed in New Jersey, and he leads the firm’s New Jersey team operations. Larry is a multi-year “Top Lawyer” honoree in Main Line Today magazine, and he has been named as an “Awesome/Top Attorney” for family law and divorce in Suburban Life Magazine. Larry is an active member of the bar associations and family law sections of Delaware County, Chester County, and the state of Pennsylvania.