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Tracking Devices and Spyware Can Complicate Divorce

D'Angelo & Grabow, LLP April 20, 2020

Not every spouse moves on from marital separation. In fact, some use spyware to keep tabs on their former partner.

In a recent report from NPR, a woman identified as M thought her husband was stalking her. She said he knew where she was going, what time she got there and who she was with. She later learned he put a tracking device in her car. When M tried to file a claim against her ex, prosecutors dropped the case. They said that since both of them owned the vehicle, her ex wasn’t breaking the law.

M isn’t the only person facing this issue. Across the country, countless people are stalked by their exes through tracking devices and other forms of digital spyware.

If someone believes their ex-spouse is spying on them, they may want to ask themselves the following questions: are they doing so in a way that breaks the law? And whose property are they monitoring?

Eavesdropping and Wiretapping Are Typically Illegal

Wisconsin is a one-party consent state. That means it’s a felony for anyone to record an oral or telephone communication without the approval of at least one party. For instance, if one’s spouse is doing any of the following without their knowledge, they could be breaking the law:

  • Logging into a spouse’s email without permission

  • Recording phone conversations they aren’t involved in

  • Using hidden cameras to monitor an ex-spouse’s daily activities

Invasion of Privacy Depends on The Item

In M’s case, her ex-husband put the tracking device in a car they jointly owned. In many cases, courts don’t identify cars as a piece of private property. However, phones and other personal items get evaluated a little differently. Even if the stalker purchased the phone for their spouse, phones are typically a very intimate device that carries a lot of private data.

Knowing What to Do Can Be Challenging

Current laws have a hard time keeping up with today’s technology. Because of this, victims of stalking don’t always know what steps to take. If they feel lost, they could benefit from the assistance of a trusted legal partner.