Going through a divorce is oftentimes very traumatic, for both husband and wife. It is in essence, the death of a relationship. People who vowed their undying love and support, suddenly go out of their way to “win”. There are never any real winners. But litigants can protect themselves and courts are there as just one source of protection. In a case filed in New York, Zaratzian v. Abadir, a woman filed a lawsuit against her former husband and his attorney alleging they violated the Wiretap Act and Stored Communications Act when she discovered that her ex-husband had been intercepting her emails. She learned this when her former husband’s attorney filed a motion to modify child support and attached her tax returns. The ex-husband and his attorney filed a motion asking the court to dismiss her claims against them. The motion was granted as to the attorney but the ex-husband was not so lucky.
The story goes as follows: Before the couple divorced, the husband, as any good husband would do, set up an email account for his wife. Unbeknownst to the wife, this email account had the option of automatically forwarding all of her emails to the husband’s email account. The husband elected to engage this option and long after they were separated, the husband continued to receive copies of all of her emails. After the parties divorced, the wife learned that the ex-husband had been receiving and reviewing her emails, without her permission or knowledge, when his attorney attached an email she had exchanged with her accountant in support of his motion. The ex-husband had filed a motion seeking to reduce and/or modify his child support obligation based upon the parties income and the email with the former wife and her accountant, was attached to tax returns the attorney filed in support of his application.
The Judge who heard the motions, granted summary judgment to the ex-husband’s attorney on the grounds that the ex-wife could not prove that the attorney had known or should have known that the ex-husband received the tax return and email exchange with her accountant, by intercepting her emails. However, the Judge permitted the Wiretap Act claim against the former husband to proceed to trial. The Judge found that the ex-wife did not consent to the former husband intercepting her emails simply because she allowed him to set up the account when they were married and he maintained the ex-wife had a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Great take-away is to protect your privacy and change your emails and/or passwords when going through a divorce. Contact your service provider if you have any questions or concerns about your account or simply set up an entirely new email account.
If you have any questions about privacy and the divorce process, please schedule an appointment with one of our family law attorneys at 1-732-410-2308.