Written by attorney Henry S. Gornbein


There is an interesting case pending in Oakland County, Michigan, where the Oakland County prosecutor has charged a man with a felony based upon hacking and misuse of the computer during a divorce. The case is one where a divorce was pending, and the husband suspected his wife with being unfaithful. There was a computer in the home, and the husband hacked into it using his wife's password, and found e-mails showing that his wife had been unfaithful and was involved in an extramarital affair with __________. Apparently the estranged wife realized her computer had been hacked when personal e-mails showed up in child custody pleadings between her and husband number one. The pending divorce, and the husband who hacked the computer, is husband number three. The wife filed a complaint with the prosecutor's office based upon violation of computer hacking and wire-tapping laws. He is charged with a felony and is scheduled to go to trial on February 7th of this year. This is an interesting intersection between divorce, technology, and wire-tapping laws. This is food for thought for anyone thinking about or going through a divorce, who is thinking about going through the spouse's computer. My understanding of the law, at least in Michigan, is that tampering with e-mail is like tampering with the U.S. Mail. You can look at opened e-mail, just like you can look at mail that has been left out after it has been opened and removed from the envelope, but you cannot open e-mail, just like you cannot open a letter that is not addressed to you. Divorce, technology, and the law, are ever changing, and this is just some food for thought in our high-tech society for those contemplating or going through a divorce.

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