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Your electronic history when you divorce

Your electronic history when you divorce seems a topical issue for a blog by Cheshire family law specialists Stonehewer Moss solicitors given the current US Presidential bust up about Mrs Clintons email records. Michael Brennan, the accredited solicitor at the Northwich solicitors in divorce financial disputes has seen a dramatic change in recent years concerning use of personal data in divorce. Michael says,” Family law always took a different approach to civil law, regarding the circumstances of a separation as a special case. The rules surrounding self help to the private documents of your husband or wife were well known and approved by authority called Hildebrand v Hildebrand and the obtaining of your spouses records by frankly underhand means was considered the lesser of two evils as the documents were produced to counter issues of disposal of assets or simple non disclosure. Sadly Hildebrand is no more and that sonorous case authority has been rejected in favour of normal civil law rules about private property and breach of privacy by the ugly sounding case Tchenguiz v Imerman  which severely warns divorcing people that it is a crime to intercept and use the documents of another. This right to privacy therefore includes a shifty spouse and the case was promptly dubbed a cheats charter. Should the Clintons ever have grounds for divorce and chose to divorce here the Court would consider expert evidence applications to report the contents of a computer server under Part 25 Family Proceedings Rules but the spouse would be in breach of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 if intercepting records.

Is this all bad news for the innocent spouse? Probably not if the shifty spouse has assets capable of forensic examination, because you are entitled to dig with the use of a court appointed expert and freezing orders are available if you can satisfy the court of a risk of dimunition  of the pot unfairly by a spouse. Finally, the recent Supreme Court authority called Sharland emphasises that cheats cannot expect to get away with it simply because their evasion comes to light a long time after the divorce; the court set aside an order when the spouse had failed to disclose. This might be relevant if an asset not disclosed or undervalued was later sold and evidenced but care needs to be taken to preserve the proceeds. Your electronic history when you divorce is made of stuff relevant to financial issues when relevant to the court but today it can itself be a subject of dispute as an asset. I have dealt with cases in which the issue was the downloads of music that presumably had been expensively and lovingly put together. In reality the licence will often belong to the music download company but the machine on which it was stored is an item of property the court in divorce can distribute any way it thinks fair regardless of which credit card paid for it. One last point worth noting is that your social media can be checked by the court, so ensure you are not in contempt of court at all times.”

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