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Cheating Spouses Leave Behind Digital Trails


Twenty-five years ago, it was very easy to hide an affair. Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, there was no such thing as FaceTime or similar technologies. You couldn’t use your Verizon account or an app to use GPS and track your spouse’s every move. Now it’s much easier to catch a cheating spouse because they almost always leave a digital trail.

These days, just about everyone is glued to their smartphones; they take their phone everywhere they go. They barely walk from the master bedroom to the kitchen without bringing their cellphone along with them.

Our Love Affair with Smartphones

Due to our unabashed love affair with smartphones, much of today’s cheating is accomplished through digital technologies, such as emails, text messages, direct social media messages, online dating sites (yes, married people use these), secret messaging apps, and the infamous hookup app “Tinder.”

Even if a husband or wife “hooks up” with someone while travelling for business or after going to a bar, the cheater will often text the one-night-stand at a later date or follow them on social media. Social media is such a habit that it’s almost second nature for people, and it can leave behind a treasure trove of digital evidence.

What is digital evidence? It’s any type of communication or activity tracked on a digital device, such as:

  • Emails
  • Text messages
  • Digital pictures
  • Digital videos
  • Internet searches
  • Web pages visited
  • Social media posts
  • Direct social media messages

‘I Can’t Help but Snoop on My Spouse’

Usually, when a husband or wife suspects their spouse is having an affair, the first place they look is their spouse’s smartphone. And, they’ll go to great lengths to gain access.

Suspicious spouses will look at their spouse’s phone when they’re asleep or in the shower, but this can be hard when their spouse takes their phone everywhere! Sometimes, the suspicious spouse will have to wait days until their husband or wife accidentally leaves their phone someplace, but even then, it might be locked with a passcode.

The question is, “Is it legal for people to hack into their spouses’ cellphones to uncover evidence of an affair?” In most cases the answer is, “No.” There are strict state and federal privacy laws in place that prohibit this kind of activity.

If you try to guess your spouse’s password to read their emails or texts, or sneak into their Facebook account and take screenshots of their racy direct messages, you cannot use such evidence in a court of law because it was illegally obtained – without your spouse’s express permission. However, posts that are in your spouse’s “news feed” on sites like Facebook and Instagram may be usable in court, but mainly for child custody or spousal support purposes (let us know if you have questions).

If you violate state or federal privacy laws and your spouse goes on the attack, you could end up facing criminal charges. Our advice is to speak with a Columbia divorce attorney from our firm before you assume you can use any digital evidence in divorce court.
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