24 Jul 16

Can he legally obtain my cell phone records and bills in a divorce?

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Most people today use cell phones as a primary form of communication. This is convenient although it can also cause problems when a spouse is looking for private information during a divorce. Here is what you need to know about whether a spouse can legally obtain your cell phone records and bills during a divorce.

Subpoenas and Divorce Cases

The reality is that one spouse can subpoena the cell phone records and bills of the other spouse involved in the divorce proceedings. It is important to note that a divorce must have already been filed for a spouse to subpoena those records. Married couples who are not going through an official legal divorce cannot be compelled to surrender that type of information to each other. The subpoena will list what needs to be turned over along with any requests for the target spouse to testify. This does happen all the time in divorce cases.

The Discovery Phase

A subpoena might not even be necessary to acquire cell phone records from one of the parties in a divorce. Your spouse’s lawyers can potentially request them during the discovery phase of the case. This is a phase where relevant evidence can be requested by attorneys simply as part of the proceedings. There are laws regarding discovery although it is often used in place of filing and serving a formal subpoena.

Acquiring Information in Other Ways

Although getting a subpoena or discovery are the two ways attorneys can acquire your cell phone records and bills, there are other methods. Your spouse can potentially just directly access your devices in order to find information. Your spouse could copy or print out text messages if your phone is left undefended while you are both living in the home. Your spouse could also make copies of cell phone bills if they are not exclusively in your name. This is something that you have to be very careful about because the recovered information is often admissible or usable during the divorce.

How Cell Phone Records Can Be Used In a Divorce

Any cell phone records and bills that are gathered can be used in several ways during a heated divorce. The bills can be used to show calls to people in order to prove infidelity. The same is true of cell phone call records from the carrier. The information can be used during a trial to prove certain points. It can also be leveraged by a lawyer during settlement negotiations to put the spouse in a stronger position.

Other Vulnerable Areas

Much of the technology for communicating today is interconnected. You need to worry about more than just your cell phone records and bills. You should be worried about emails and social media as well. Those records could also be copied by a spouse during a divorce or subpoenaed through the courts. There could potentially be damaging information in those accounts. The information might not even be damaging although a spouse will work hard to misinterpret it.

Protecting Yourself

There is no way to protect yourself against being served with a subpoena for cell phone records outside of hiring a divorce attorney. You do want to take precautions to prevent your spouse from having easy access to your devices, bills and accounts. Keep your cell phone in a secure location or on your person at all times. Change the passwords on your social media and email accounts. This will force your spouse to have to file for subpoenas in order to see the information.

Need more information? Speak to one of our Manhattan matrimony lawyers.

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