Spying Spouses or Fair Observation? An Unclear Line

There are a number of state and federal statutes that protect privacy and forbid certain electronic and other surveillance, often with criminal penalties.  With ever growing electronic tools for spying readily available, feuding spouses sometimes try to improve their position with cameras, microphones, GPS trackers, and key stroke software.  The results for the spy are often mixed and can backfire to the extent of facing criminal charges.

In a recent decision, a Georgia appellate court shed a little light into the shadows of divorce conduct.  Generally, Georgia’s privacy statute forbids video or audio monitoring of other persons in private places.  An exception is provided for a homeowner to monitor his/her own residence for security and crime detection.  But what if two spouses are the homeowner and are hostile?  In this case, the parents rotated in and out of the residence alternatively while the children remained in the nest.  The wife installed secret cameras in common areas that could be monitored or recorded via the internet.  She sought to use recordings in the divorce proceeding, and the husband cited criminal violation of his privacy and sought all such evidence excluded.

The Court concluded that wife met the exception that she could monitor her own home even though she had no right to access during husband’s time, as she was ostensibly monitoring to guard against possible crimes against the children by father.  This does appear to be a limited exception, and erstwhile spies should tread carefully.