Divorce in the Digital Age: Why Are Divorce Cases Relying More on Electronically Stored Information (ESI)?

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Divorce in the Digital Age: Why Are Divorce Cases Relying More on Electronically Stored Information (ESI)?

Chances are you’re reading this blog post on your phone. Or maybe you’re browsing it on your laptop or tablet. Whatever the medium, this information and millions of pieces of content like it are being shared with you nearly instantly thanks to the rise of the digital age.

Our world continues to change shape in a way that’s reflected online while our digital lives continue to mold our actual world. The distinction between the “real world” and “digital world” is getting smaller and smaller. As these dimensions overlap, the amount of ESI we produce and share multiplies exponentially.  Some of that electronically stored information winds up in the courtroom, especially in emotionally charged cases found in family law.

So, it begs the question: What exactly is so compelling about ESI for divorce cases? How and why is it becoming commonplace in the world of divorce and family law?

It’s Abundant

How many electronic devices do you use weekly? How about daily? We know our society is more digitally connected than ever. Our lifestyles are often built around the smart phones, tablets and computers we use daily. However, what may surprise you is just how much information you’re sharing and leaving behind in any given moment.

Even casual users have sizeable digital footprints. A few Facebook posts, emails and online orders and you’ve just given away a wealth of personal information. Here’s some of the things you’re likely sharing as you live your digital life:

  • Location
  • Time
  • Device & related operating system
  • Purchase history
  • Permissions
  • Preferences
  • Socio and demographic information

While we already know this information is pretty appealing for marketers and sales representatives, it’s important to divorce attorneys and digital forensics experts as well.

It’s Easy to Find

How important would this information be if it wasn’t easily accessible? When it comes to digital data, there’s much, much more than you realize beneath the surface. A trained digital forensics expert can pull up information you thought was deleted and long gone with skill and the right devices. An experienced lawyer can use that evidence deftly in a divorce case.

If you’re considering using digital data as evidence in your divorce case, you want to hire a qualified and experienced digital forensics expert for your team. This expert may actually wear many hats during the preparations and trial, serving as an expert witness and consultant.  Your digital forensics expert not only needs the appropriate tools and equipment necessary for a thorough examination, he/she needs in-depth knowledge of the process to produce trustworthy results.  Both the effective process of collecting, analyzing, and examining ESI, and expert testimony can mean the difference between winning and losing your case

It Reflects Our Day to Day Lives

As we’ve discussed, our online behavior is a reflection of our daily lives and lifestyle. As social networking continues to grow in popularity, people are becoming more and more comfortable sharing personal information with the world and not thinking of the implications. Social media status updates, private messages, texting, photographs and emails can all be used as evidence in a divorce trial.

Even the things you think are undercover or secret can make it into the evidence category. Hidden bank accounts, personal emails and geotagged information can reveal aspects of your life and marriage you’d rather keep hidden. They can also be used to prove adultery, criminal behavior, and abuse.

ESI More Revealing Than We Realize

Our digital footprints reveal a lot about each of us and our activities and can legally be uncovered by a digital forensic expert. If you’re preparing for a divorce case, you might have to deal with the following accusations and should be informed about the type of evidence often used:

  • Underreporting income: hidden bank accounts, undisclosed funds, transactions, purchases and status updates that contradict previously made statements
  • Abuse and/or neglect: emails, text messages, instant messages, recordings, videos and photographs plus geotagged photos or check-ins
  • Adultery: chats, photos, videos, online history including dating and meetup sites, recordings
  • Undisclosed criminal history: communications, online history, records

Keep in mind that some data can even be obtained without a search warrant. NPR reports that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 has to be interpreted to mean that email that is older than 180 days or has been opened does not require a warrant for investigative purposes. That means our email history is even more open to scrutiny and real investigation than most think.

Our digital footprints are only going to get bigger and more varied as we spend more time and conduct important tasks online. The type of devices we use will continue to shape and shift too, as we use wearables and buy smart everythings for our homes.  Because of this, divorce cases and family law attorneys are relying more and more on ESI and knowledgeable and experienced digital forensics experts.

About Prudential Associates

Prudential Associates was founded by former Army Intelligence Officer Robert Miller in 1972, who began serving the local legal community as an investigative, surveillance, and intelligence resource.

Prudential Associates has expanded its service footprint geographically and added over 70 extremely valuable staff members and experts; our consulting and service operations have taken place in thousands of locations on nearly every continent. To date we have achieved recognition as the premier resource for clients in sectors such as: television and movie production; maritime services and shipping; large event/concert planning & security; pharmaceutical production; shipping and logistics; human capital management; and, perhaps most notably, in the legal service industry, given our highly distinguished investigative, surveillance, and digital forensics expertise.

Our in-house computer and cell phone forensics lab rivals or exceeds the capabilities of over 90% of the law enforcement labs in the United States, as well as over 99% of those overseas.

For a greater insight into our experience, expertise, and operational history, please see our Corporate Resume.

Contact us today to discuss our digital forensics services, your digital forensic needs, and expert witness testimony. Get in touch with one of our experts now by calling 301.279.6700 or 877.279.670, or by visiting www.prudentialassociates.com.