Texas and Federal Confidentiality Laws: Use Caution with Your Texas Divorce
There are many legal and proper ways to obtain proof of a spouse’s infidelity. Take care to avoid tactics used to obtain private information that may violate federal and Texas confidentiality laws and a spouse’s right to privacy. You may be tempted by others to obtain proof of a partner’s infidelity by various inappropriate and/or illegal methods. Reading emails, recording telephone calls, installing spyware or geographical tracking devices or even setting up hidden cameras are just a few methods a spouse may be offered when entertaining the thought of catching a cheating spouse. However, such actions may expose both parties and their attorney to civil liability and possible criminal penalties. Under Texas law, it is a crime to install a geographical tracking device on a vehicle owned by another person. When emotions are running high, it is imperative that you seek proper counsel as to the proper legal action to be taken when establishing facts.
Both federal and state wiretapping laws apply to divorcing spouses. A spouse may sue the other spouse or their agents for invasion of privacy. Federal law regulates electronic surveillance of conversations and access to emails, faxes and voicemail. The law imposes civil and criminal sanctions for intentional interceptions of electronic communications. However, accessing email after it has been transmitted, i.e. downloading a text from your telephone or email from the hard drive of a family computer, is not an offense under the Federal Act. Texas has laws that also prohibit the interception of communications. Under such laws, counsel may also be held liable if they disclose information received from the intercepted communications provided by their clients.
Federal and Texas laws both allow recording of telephone calls and other electronic communications with the consent of at least one party to the communication. Under the one-party consent statutes, a spouse may record conversations in which he or she is participating. This has been extended to include parental recording of a child’s conversations with a third party, including the other parent. The parent can consent to the recording on behalf of the child so long as the parent has a good faith objective and a reasonable belief that it is in the best interest of the child, even if the child is unaware of the recording.
It is important that a spouse take great care in their means and methods of gathering information. Information obtained by illegal means can expose one, even if he or she is a spouse, to civil liabilities and possible criminal prosecution. Texas recognizes that every person has a certain right to privacy. Such right is violated if a person intentionally intrudes upon the private affairs of another by offensive means. Accessing stored email or secretly recording a spouse can be a violation of a spouse’s right to privacy. If a suit is filed, the damaged spouse may recover monetary damages, including punitive damages.
For answers to your questions on gathering information for your Texas Divorce, contact Dallas Divorce attorney Mark Nacol with the Nacol Law Firm, P.C.