Associates’ Corner: iSpy – How iCloud, iCal and iTunes are being used in Divorce Proceedings

By November 28, 2012

By Christina Echeverri
With the advent of iCloud and shared family devices, such as laptops and iPads, family law practitioners are seeing how divorcing couples can use these technological advances in divorce proceedings.  While most of the activities I have encountered have been outside the courtroom by embittered spouses seeking to harass each other, your clients online activities can impact the court proceeding; including decisions relating to child custody, time-sharing and property distribution.

Oftentimes, families with iPhones and iPads use one iTunes account for multiple devices.  Accordingly, when the devices are copied to the iCloud (Apple’s virtual backup system) the contents are accessible through any computer by logging into the iTunes account where the accessing party can spy on their spouse, reading emails and text messages, accessing calendars, looking at pictures and retrieving other backed up information.  
In my experience, angry spouses have used this information to harass their soon-to-be-exes.  For example, one client was surprised when her husband and his new girlfriend showed up at the beauty salon after learning her whereabouts from accessing a joint iCloud account. In another instance, one of my clients accessed his wife’s text messages to learn about plans his soon-to-be ex wife made with another person on the same day and time that she forgot to pick up their child at school.  Even for those vengeful spouses who are not technologically savvy, oftentimes parties forget that their devices may be synced.
For example, if Husband leaves the marital home and takes his iPhone but leaves the family iPad, if his calendar and text messages are synced to the iPad, Wife will have access to this information. Essentially, this means your spouse can access your whereabouts (past and present), who you are speaking to and about what, and much more.
While divorcing couples mainly use this information to harass and annoy each other, there are potential legal ramifications that could stem from this access to information.   Just as anything put out on social media can be used against you in a divorce so can text messages, emails and photos, particularly if your spouse knows the password and therefore has permissive access to the account.
Thus, if you are engaging in risky or illegal behavior and there is evidence of it on your phone, iPad, laptop or other shared device, be careful as your spouse can use in divorce litigation against you. While the issues concerning the spouses’ expectation of privacy and the use of this information as evidence in court are not yet settled, the information gleaned from electronic sources is most often used out of court simply to harass an ex and leverage the threats of disseminating personal information.
For example, maybe you don’t want your daughter to know about your new relationship yet and your ex found out and is threatening to tell her unless you abandon your claim for alimony.
So if you are going through a divorce, think twice about what is on your iPhone, iPad, laptop or other shared device, and consider creating a new iCloud account immediately.  And welcome to the 21st century!