Can I Spy on My Spouse?
Can I Spy on My Spouse?
Often times we have clients who suspect their spouse of cheating or acting in a nefarious manner. They want to “spy” on their spouse to gain information on affairs, or hidden assets or income. There are many ways to attempt to do this, including logging into their computer, email, social media, placing spy software on computers or phones, recording phone calls, so on and so forth. Below is a brief discussion on the legal principles surrounding these issues.
Can you record your own conversations with another? Yes you can. Michigan is a one-party consent state which means that one party can record a conversation in which he or she participates in without the knowledge or consent of the other party.
Can you record conversations between your spouse or child and another third party or your spouse and your child(ren)? No you cannot. MCL 750.539a states that eavesdropping is “to overhear, record, amplify, or transmit any part of the private discourse of others without the permission of all persons engaged in the discourse.” Penalties for being caught include injunctive relief, actual damages and potentially punitive damages.
Authorized Phone and Computer Access, and Keystroke logging
You may known your spouse’s computer password to login, and might know their phone password, or password to social media accounts. Can you login and access information without their permission? No you cannot. One might be suspicious about affairs, nefarious activities, or conversations with family members or others about a child. It seems simple to log in to your spouse’s email or social media and check their messages, or check the text messages on their phone. This could be considered a crime in Michigan.
In 2010, Leon Walker, 33, of Rochester Hills, Mich., was charged with felony computer misuse, and faced up to five years in prison after logging into the email account of his now ex-wife Clara Walker on a shared laptop using her password.* The same goes for key stroke logging programs, which are generally illegal both on a state and federal level.
Federal law prohibits eavesdropping and surveillance. 18 USC 2511 and 2512 prohibit the interception and disclosure of wire, oral, or electronic communications. Further, Michigan law prohibits Unauthorized Access to Computers (MCL 752.795), Installing an Eavesdropping Device (MCL 750.539d) and Using a Computer to Commit a Crime (MCL 752.796), in adding to the aforementioned eavesdropping statute.
Source: Michigan Family Law, published by the Institute of Continuing Legal Education.