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Spy gadgets gaining popularity in child custody disputes

According to the American Academy of matrimonial Lawyers, 80 percent or more of the country's top divorce lawyers say there has been a marked increase in the use of electronic data, including social media sites, in divorce cases. And now it seems the electronic gadgets store is the new weapon of choice for some couples entangled in a contested custody or divorce case. Feuding spouses are snapping up everything from phone tracking and GPS gadgets to hidden cameras and microphones in hopes of gaining an edge in their child custody dispute.

As reported in an earlier post, one Texas mother went so far as to sew a tiny recording device into her child's jeans in hopes of obtaining evidence to use against her ex-husband in their child custody dispute. One of the reasons for the increase in the use of technology in divorce and child custody cases is because such gadgets have become relatively inexpensive and easy to operate. For less than a few hundred dollars you can obtain surveillance equipment.

One father was on the other side of one of these schemes during a rather nasty custody dispute. He alleges the mother of his 7-year-old daughter placed a microphone and recording device into the child's teddy bear and told her to carry it with her at all times. He claims the mother recorded all his conversations throughout his weekend visitation with his daughter and, using a USB device she inserted into the bear's head, downloaded the data.

The tapes were thrown out of court and the mother was reportedly fined $10,000 in violation of wiretapping laws. Depending on where you live these laws are rather tricky. Currently 38 states allow someone to secretly record another person in a public place. Federal wiretapping laws protect cellphone and computer conversations, but a judge may still allow it.

One mother lost custody of her five children after her spouse placed several hidden tape recorders in her car and house and purposefully goaded her into losing her temper. According to the mother, her ex knew the outbursts would be recorded and set her up by deliberately provoking her. Of course she had no idea the arguments were being recorded.

Most attorneys would advise against the use of potentially illegal means in which to gain an edge in a custody dispute. There are means in which electronic data can be obtained legally and that is your safest bet in any court case. Recording someone can also leave long-term emotional scars regardless of whether or not the data can be used in court.

Source: ABC News, "Spouses Use Spy Tools to Get Custody of Children," Jim Avila, May 3, 2012

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