There is a fair amount of evidence to suggest that people have been getting married since pretty much the beginning of human civilization.
They've been getting divorces for about that long too, though our Birmingham divorce attorneys recognize that the process of a union's ending – much like its beginning – has varied through the ages.
We all know that in the U.S., divorces have rapidly increased in terms of both sheer volume and acceptance over the last 60 to 70 years. Even just from 2000 to 2011, the Centers for Disease Control reports the divorce rate increased from 6.8 per 1,000 people to 8.2 per 1,000.
It may be coincidence that during these time frames, technology has advanced exponentially. Even if technology isn't necessarily prompting the divorces, it is most certainly playing a larger-than-ever role in the proceedings.
We are now seeing every aspect of divorces affected by technology. Splits are initiated on the basis of Web site traces, smart phone records, e-mail messages and texts.
We have seen in some cases where spouses have stolen phones, hacked Facebook pages and even loaded surveillance devices onto family computers.
What we are increasingly seeing is that just about every shred of information you might have once held private is not necessarily so anymore. As the president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers was quoted by the New York Times as saying a few years ago: "(Electronic evidence) has completely changed our field."
What we tell our clients is that almost every digital communication you've ever had holds the potential to be used against you in divorce court.
This can either work to our client's advantage or disadvantage, depending on the circumstances.
On the one hand, it can be detrimental to clients involved in an affair, consuming illegal substances (or even abusing legal ones) or hiding money. On the other hand, it can be very beneficial to the party on the other side.
We routinely handle cases in which there are requests to judges for court orders to seize and copy computer hard drives and sometimes even phone records, especially if there might be the opportunity to reveal a more complete picture of the couple's finances or the suitability of one parent over the other with regard to child custody.
But the laws in this realm can be complex, and they haven't all yet caught up with the technology. For example in some cases, it might be illegal for you to access your spouse's email address. Same thing with phone messages, even if you're on the same family plan.
You may be wise to run your suspicions by a divorce lawyer first, just to see whether your tactics will be able to stand up in court – or whether you might actually find yourself criminally prosecuted for such action.
But as for our client's e-mails, what we tell them to consider is that the only truly and consistently protected information in your private e-mail accounts are messages to and from your attorney, as those will be covered under attorney-client privilege.
With everything else, you need to understand that once you hit that send button, you aren't guaranteed privacy.
Platforms like Facebook have made this all particularly interesting because now, we have a clear, documented timeline of events, interactions, photographs and videos. No matter how tight your privacy settings are on your social media page, consider everything on it public.
If you are contemplating a divorce in Birmingham, contact Birmingham Family Law Attorney Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.
Tell-All PCs and Phones Transforming Divorce, Sept. 15, 2007, By Brad Stone, The New York Times