Friday 30 September 2016

Warring couples resort to 'spying apps' in bitter divorce cases

Published 29/05/2016 | 02:30

'Installing GPS tracking apps allows the person who placed the device on a phone to read texts simultaneously as the user' (Stock photo)
'Installing GPS tracking apps allows the person who placed the device on a phone to read texts simultaneously as the user' (Stock photo)

Warring couples are now using GPS phone tracking, as well as hidden cameras and microphones, during bitter divorce and separation battles.

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Ireland's divorce lawyers say the "spy shop" has become a new tool in the arsenal of those determined to call it quits on a marriage.

And one of Ireland's leading divorce lawyers told the Sunday Independent of a recent case, where a suspicious husband planted a hidden camera in the drawing room of the family home.

He was convinced his wife was having an affair.

It has also emerged wives are calling in high-level expertise to access classified company documents linked to their wealthy husbands.

This information can be of critical importance when it comes to divvying up various assets.

Installing GPS tracking apps allows the person who placed the device on a phone to read texts simultaneously as the user.

The technology converts a smartphone into a sophisticated spying device, allowing remote access to the handset.

It also enables them to obtain phone numbers, relating to outgoing and incoming calls, to track their duration, and to read emails.

Dublin-based solicitor, Keith Walsh, says he's aware of a variety of electronic "tracking machines" being used by suspicious spouses.

There have also been cases where sensitive data pertaining to business interests have been secretly downloaded from computers and iPads.

"Very often an iPad contains text messages which, if an individual leaves the device around the house, the spouse can access it.

"Messages and emails may contain sensitive financial data, as well as personal or romantic information.

"I deal with a lot of self-employed businessmen, and an area of worry in terms of spyware being used, is when information is accessed about their company.

"The use of spyware has increased, and serious difficulties can arise if the wife is spying on a husband's business, because other company directors and shareholders are potentially affected.

"I always advise my clients to make sure they secure relevant data, and that no confidential information regarding finances of their company, can necessarily be accessed by an outside party.

"A major problem is when a spouse doesn't realise the marriage is on the rocks and their partner is preparing in advance for a separation.

"That's when you can see the huge use of spyware or unauthorised use of email, texts and telephones.

"But any information they gather doesn't help the spying person in their case."

In his experience, it is usually the wife in the relationship who attempts to gather a more complete picture of their husband's financial means.

"In the main, these are couples with a lot of disposable income, and a husband or wife may not be totally familiar as to where the money has gone."

Experts say one of the primary reasons for the growth of such technology in divorce cases is that do-it-yourself snooping has become relatively cheap and easy.

It is straightforward to hide a camera in an object lying around the house, or mount a microphone somewhere out of sight.

Meanwhile, James Seymor from Berwick Solicitors, said social media also plays a key role in divorce proceedings.

"Some people create fake Facebook profiles, and then 'friend' their spouse so they can see what's happening on their personal page.

"Also, most people aren't aware that the camera built in to most modern PC computers and tablets can be remotely accessed and turned on.

"People think the information they've gathered can be used as evidence but the court will not accept it, particularly if it's been done in a very underhand or possibly illegal manner."

Dublin-based family law solicitor, Marion Campbell, recalled a case in which a husband planted a secret camera in the lounge of the family home.

"That was to confirm to him that his wife was having an affair with the next door neighbour, which she was.

"But the fact that he had installed a camera in the drawing room did not go down well in court. The courts would be very reluctant to accept material that was improperly obtained."

Sunday Independent

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