Can I Access my Spouse’s E-mails, Phones, or Computers?
The short answer is no, unless you received explicit authorization to do so or maintain a shared account. An example of a shared account could be a family cloud account, e-mail account, calendar, computer, or other electronic device(s). However, it is important to note that having access to a shared family computer or other electronic device does not give one the right to access the other party’s sole accounts on said device(s) without explicit authorization. A party may be authorized to view or access certain information in such accounts or devices for a specific purpose but may not exceed that authorization.
Could there be Ramifications for Accessing my Spouse’s E-mails, Phones, or Computers?
Yes; there could be both State and Federal criminal and civil ramifications.
Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 52a-251(b)(1), it is illegal in the State of Connecticut for a person to access a computer system without authorization when knowing that he or she is not authorized to do so.
On a Federal level, pursuant to the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. Section 2701, a person who intentionally access an e-mail account not belonging to him or her without authorization, or intentionally exceeds an authorization to access that e-mail account, shall be civilly liable to the violated party.
Further, guessing a password based on knowledge of or familiarity with the password is not a defense and does not make intentionally accessing a computer without authorization and obtaining any information from such protective computer legal. In short, information that is specifically protected by a password, to which a party is not privy, cannot be accessed, read, copied, or distributed without the authorization of a password holder. 18 U.S.C. Section 1030(a)(2)(C).
If I Obtained Information from my Spouse’s E-mails, Phones, or Computers, can it be used in Court Proceedings?
No. Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 52-184a, evidence obtained illegally by the use of any electronic device is inadmissible in any Connecticut Court.
How Can I Legally Obtain Information from my Spouse’s E-mail, Phone, or Computer?
The discovery process in a Connecticut divorce is broad. There are numerous mechanisms to legally obtain information from your spouse that may be stored electronically. In a Request for Production, you could ask for e-mails, text messages, and social media activity, for example. Another method would be to take your spouse’s Deposition. In a Connecticut divorce action, you and your spouse each have the right to take the other party’s Deposition. During a Deposition, questions will be answered under oath. Additionally, you can each request that the other party bring certain documents to a Deposition. Depositions are not just limited to the parties. Third-party Depositions may also be taken; for example, if you believe that your spouse had an extramarital affair, his or her paramour could be deposed and asked to produce similar documents. Finally, a Motion for the digital imaging of an electronic device could be filed and prosecuted.
It is important to speak to an attorney before attempting to access your spouse’s online accounts and electronic devices. At Broder Orland Murray & DeMattie LLC, our attorneys are well-versed in the laws involving electronic accounts and devices. Our attorneys will skillfully work with you to ensure that electronic evidence is obtained through lawful discovery channels so that it may be used in litigation, if necessary.