The Role of Cyberstalking in a Divorce

With location tracking, social media and other online resources readily available these days, protecting your privacy has become increasingly difficult. The Digital Age has made keeping in touch with friends and family easier than before, but it has also created new problems, including cyberstalking. This is the act of harassing a person with electronics, such as email, on social media platforms and other digital outlets. Unfortunately, cyberstalking has become an issue in divorce cases.

Divorce in New Mexico is complex and stressful enough without bringing cyberstalking in, too. If your spouse is stalking you online during the divorce or if you think you could be guilty of doing it yourself, here’s what you need to know.

Cyberstalking Defined

Cyberstalking is basically a type of cyberbullying. The cyberstalker spies on his or her spouse on the web, going through his or her social media comments and even looking at friends’ and family members’ accounts for more information. While this may sound harmless, cyberstalking is stressful for the victim and can even become dangerous if the cyberstalker begins behaving in an aggressive or threatening manner. For example, the cyberstalker may leave nasty comments or messages or create a false account to act anonymously.

If you find that you keep checking your spouse’s accounts, you might be guilty of cyberstalking even if you have innocent intentions at the start. Most people who cyberstalk while divorcing are doing so to see what the other spouse has been doing during the separation. They may be looking to see how the spouse is spending money, who they are dating, or how they are behaving with the kids. Some cyberstalkers even use their spouse’s passwords or hack their accounts to gain access. 

Some of your spouse’s public information online can be helpful in a divorce, such as a spouse who claims he or she is broke yet posts photos of lavish purchases, as it can be used as evidence in custody and divorce cases. However, once a spouse begins using information they found online to threaten, embarrass, harass or intimidate their spouse, they’ve crossed into cyberstalking. The same applies to the creation of false accounts to follow or harass a spouse or breaking into a spouse’s social media accounts. It’s worth noting that cyberstalking is illegal in New Mexico and many other states and is a violation of Federal law.

Keeping Yourself Safe

If you think your spouse is cyberstalking you or he or she is already threatening or harassing you online, you need to take steps to protect yourself and your privacy. Always be careful about what you share online because this can be used against you in court. Consider taking a social media break while the divorce is ongoing. If you can’t resist, avoid posting anything about your kids, the divorce, your finances or your love life.

Change all the passwords for your connected accounts, including email, social media, any apps and your smartphone. Unhook your Apple accounts from your joint account. Don’t get into arguments with your spouse on social media, in email or via text; talk to your family law attorney to learn how to communicate with a disagreeable spouse.

When Cyberstalking Becomes Criminal

If your spouse is going beyond simply reading public comments and posts, it’s time to consider what types of legal action you can take. Incidents involving breaking into your accounts, defamation, slander or threats can be considered criminal and should be taken seriously. If you are in this situation or fear you soon will be, speak to your attorney for help. An Order of Protection may be necessary to stop your spouse from repeatedly harassing you online, and your attorney will help you understand and exercise your options in this situation.