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2 Tips For When You Access Your Divorcing Spouse’s Computer

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If you are in a high net worth divorce, you might hire a forensic computer expert to access your divorcing spouse’s computer. You might hire this expert to try to detect community property your divorcing spouse hid from you. Meanwhile, if you are going to access your divorcing spouse’s computer, make sure your access does not violate the federal anti-hacking statute and / or other laws. Additionally, before your forensic computer expert examines your spouse’s computer, use interrogatories during your divorce to collect background information about the computer.

I. ACCESS YOUR SPOUSE’S COMPUTER LEGALLY

You, your matrimonial lawyer and your forensic computer expert must use legal methods to access your spouse’s computer. This means you may need to apply for a court order authorizing you to forensically examine / access your spouse’s computer. Even if you share a computer with your spouse in your marital residence, you still might need a court order to legally access your spouse’s information at the shared computer.  This is especially true if you need to access your spouse’s password protected information at this computer. If you illegally access your spouse’s information at a computer, you could be civilly & / or criminally liable under the federal anti-hacking statute, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 U.S.C. § 1030). Illegally accessing your spouse’s computer could also be a violation of your state’s law.  

II. USE INTERROGATORIES TO COLLECT INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR SPOUSE’S COMPUTER

Furthermore, before your forensic computer expert examines your spouse’s computer, learn background information about this computer or other computers your spouse uses.  You might elicit this background information from your spouse by using interrogatories during the pretrial discovery phase of your divorce.  At your interrogatories, here are just some of the things you can ask your spouse about: 

  • Does your spouse use multiple computers and if so, where are they located?
  • Has your spouse’s computer been “wiped clean” / has a data destruction application been used at the computer?
  • What backup sets exist of your spouse’s computer and what is the current location of these backups?

Using interrogatories to collect this kind of information from your spouse, increases the odds your forensic computer examination will detect any community property your spouse hid from you.  For more interrogatories related to a prospective forensic computer examination, visit the webpage available here.

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