Email Spying Could Equal Big Consequences

Checking your spouse’s e-mail in secret could have big consequences when filing for divorce. Take Leon Walker, a Michigan man, who is scheduled to go on trial February 7 on criminal charges of accessing the family computer to log onto his wife’s e-mail account to see if she was cheating on him. If he is convicted, Leon could face up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Walker contends that he had a right to use the computer as he bought it, and that she kept her passwords in an address book by the computer. Leon felt that he had a right to read her e-mail to check that their child and stepchild were safe as he had a feeling that she was having an affair with her second ex-husband. (Leon is the third husband.) Clara, Leon’s wife, had no idea he read her e-mail until it entered divorce proceedings.

Florida divorce attorneys and their clients are paying attention to this case as it will be interesting to see if the jury deems his actions a privacy violation instead of a criminal one. There is also the fact that she was having an affair prior to him checking the e-mails, so it changes the situation in this family law case.

Leon admitted that his wife did not know he used her e-mail account prior to it being discussed in the divorce proceedings, so Clara claims she never gave him verbal authorization to access it. Just because the computer and passwords were readily available does not automatically grant access to checking the e-mail whenever a spouse would like, her lawyer asserts.

Leon’s lawyer says he is inappropriately charged under a statute that applies to computer hackers who are after money or causing damage, not looking at a spouse’s e-mail account. Secretly checking a spouse’s electronic communications may violate state and federal wiretapping statutes such as the Wire and Electronic Communications Interception and Interception of Oral Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2510 et seq. And in the Florida case in 2005, O’Brien v. O’Brien (Fla. 5th Dist. Ct. App. 2005), those types of intercepted communications were barred as evidence.

When a marriage has come to this point of infidelity, snooping and a question of child custody, a knowledgeable attorney can help with the emotional and financial challenges ahead.

You will have a much more favorable divorce settlement if you are proactive and can focus on what is best for your children.

O. Reginald (“Reggie”) Osenton is the Owner and President of Osenton Law Offices, P.A. If you need a Brandon bankruptcy lawyer, Tampa bankruptcy lawyer, or Tampa bankruptcy attorney, call 813.654.5777 or visit