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Wiretap Act Violation for Putting Auto Forward on Spouse's Email Account During a Divorce

A recent ABA Journal article indicates that putting an auto-forward on your husband’s email account when you suspect he’s cheating can amount to a violation of the federal Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act.  ABA Journal, “Wife's Unauthorized Access to Husband's Emails Could Violate Wiretap Act, 7th Circuit says,” DEC 21, 2016 BY STEPHANIE FRANCIS WARD.  This case is, once again, reaffirming the idea that snooping in a spouse’s email during a divorce case can be considered criminal activity.  The case is from an appeals court in Chicago, but nevertheless is something to keep in mind.

The husband, Barry, and wife, Paula, had been married for 41 years when Paula filed for divorce in Illinois.  Paula accused Barry of cheating, and his divorce attorney asked for proof of the alleged infidelity.  The wife’s attorney then produced copies of email correspondence between Barry and several different women.  Barry did not know his wife had access to his email account until that point, and he alleged that she must have had his emails forwarded to her illegally. 

Following the divorce case, Barry sued his ex-wife and her divorce lawyer in federal court and an appeal followed.  The federal court of appeals said that Barry’s claim against his ex-wife for forwarding his emails to her account was a violation of the Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Act.  The claim against Paula’s lawyer was dropped, with the court stating that the lawyer could not be held liable for disclosing Barry’s own emails to him through the discovery process in a divorce.

Bottom line is that it’s a bad idea to hack into a spouse’s email account or attempt to intercept those emails.  It is most likely illegal under federal law and will only cause you more trouble. 

Click here to view the official ABA article link.

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