Solving Complex Family Law Issues with Creative Strategies

Cyberstalking and Domestic Violence During Divorce

Divorce has never been an easy process either legally or emotionally, but today’s digital world provides an angry or unhappy spouse new ways to harass, bully, or stalk the other spouse during a divorce. With the vast majority of people enjoying multiple social media accounts and new tracking technologies, it’s difficult to ensure privacy and protection from a spouse intent on intrusiveness and intimidation. The same platforms intended to connect family and friends across distances, all too often allow a disgruntled or abusive ex-spouse to connect with and victimize the other spouse.

Cyberstalking is highly problematic in many divorces, but it’s especially concerning for victims of domestic violence. What is cyberstalking and what can a spouse do to protect themself from this threat during divorce?

What is Cyberstalking?

Stalking has long been a problem, particularly for divorcing spouses. Since technology has advanced and we’ve entered the digital age, stalking has become largely electronic. Cyberstalking occurs when one individual uses electronic tools such as social media platforms, email, text messages, GPS trackers, and other electronic resources to track, harass, or intimidate someone else. Cyberstalking during divorce occurs for a variety of reasons such as the following:

  • A spouse may seek “dirt” on another spouse in order to sway a judge during child custody disputes
  • One spouse may be jealous or resentful of the other spouse’s newfound freedom and/or a new relationship and may use cyberstalking to intrude into the other’s privacy
  • A spouse may use cyberstalking to ruin the other spouse’s personal or business reputation
  • A spouse may attempt to intimidate the other spouse through online threats or abusive comments
  • Spouses may use social media platforms to engage in revenge porn
  • A spouse may commit identity theft using the other’s information
  • An abusive spouse may use cyberstalking techniques to track the other spouse during divorce with the intent of doing them physical or emotional harm

Cyberstalking is a serious crime in California and elsewhere. First offenses are often misdemeanors with up to $1,000 fines unless they involve criminal violence. Further convictions of cyberstalking become felony offenses with up to five years imprisonment. When connected with domestic violence, convictions include longer prison sentences and possible registry as a sex offender.

Protecting Against Cyberstalking and Domestic Violence During a Divorce

If a cyberstalking ex-spouse becomes threatening or abusive, especially a spouse with a history of domestic violence, it’s critical to speak to your San Francisco divorce attorney about obtaining a domestic violence restraining order for protection. A temporary restraining order is the first level of protection against threats, intimidation, and physical abuse. Divorcing spouses should also take the following steps to protect themselves against cyberstalking:

  • Change passwords on all accounts, including bank accounts, social media accounts, email, and electronic subscriptions and streaming platforms
  • Increase privacy settings on social media or temporarily shut down social media accounts
  • Block calls and texts from your ex and demand that they communicate through your attorney
  • Document all threats and intimidation

When a spouse engages in cyberstalking and other threatening behaviors, it may be used against them in custody disputes as evidence of instability. Evidence of cyberstalking shows that continued close contact between the cyberstalking spouse and the children in the case may not be in the children’s best interests.

Speak to your Irvine family law attorney about the threat of cyberstalking in your divorce case.