How Technology is Used to Stalk and Spy on Exes
And what you can do to put a stop to stalkers in Florida
on June 3, 2019
Updated on February 17, 2022
In the digital age, the ways in which estranged spouses spy on each other have gone high-tech. Cars, cellphones and computers can all be targeted. GPS trackers are particularly big.
“In high-asset, celebrity or very contentious cases, I’ll use forensic investigators to sweep my clients’ homes, businesses, vehicles and boats,” says Kenneth Gordon, head of the family law department at Brinkley Morgan in Fort Lauderdale.
Florida law prohibits placing a tracking device on someone else’s property. However, if your spouse’s name is on the title or lease agreement, he or she can legally install a tracker on your car—but you can still do something about it.
If your spouse “shows up at the places where you are, you can use the tracker as evidence for a stalking injunction,” says Vanessa Vasquez de Lara, founder of Vasquez de Lara Law Group in Miami.
One thing that’s definitely illegal is for your spouse to put a recording device inside your vehicle, or to secretly record phone calls or in-person conversations, says Brian Karpf, with Young Berman Karpf & Gonzalez in Miami. Under Florida law, both parties must give their consent before a conversation can be legally recorded.
It’s also unlawful, of course, to install spyware or stalkerware on someone else’s computer. In the 2005 Florida divorce case O’Brien v. O’Brien, a woman put spyware on her husband’s computer to intercept his emails, in an attempt to prove he was having an affair. But the court found the wife had violated the law.
Karpf recounts the case of a man who told his wife he was going out of town on a business trip. Instead, he went on a Caribbean cruise with his girlfriend. The wife found out when the husband’s photos were automatically uploaded to a shared family photo album.
Florida is a no-fault divorce state, meaning one spouse doesn’t have to prove the other did something wrong. However, if a spouse is proven to be unfaithful and has spent money on a girlfriend or boyfriend, the other spouse can claim that money when dividing marital assets, Karpf says.
Another thing to keep in mind, notes Vasquez de Lara: If you’re trying to avoid your spouse but check yourself into a restaurant on social media or a location tracking app, you’ve made yourself easy to find. “There’s so much information out there about us that can be exploited very easily,” she says.
She also recommends turning off the cellphone locator that comes with some wireless family plans (such as the Find My app on Apple devices).
One of the easiest things you can do to protect yourself from being spied on by a former partner is to change the passwords on your email, social media and financial accounts. Also, increase your privacy settings.
Jamie D. Alman, with Greenspoon Marder in Fort Lauderdale, looks at a spouse’s Facebook posts and takes screenshots of anything that might be helpful in court.
If you already have embarrassing posts, there isn’t much you can do about it. Deleting them or taking down your Facebook profile could be considered tampering with evidence, Alman says.
Karpf tells clients who are going through a divorce just to stay away from social media. If you do post, he offers this advice: “Don’t post anything you’d be embarrassed for your mother to see.”