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James Bond no longer fiction: a new era of tech toys, spousal spying

"There is so much technology out there," says T.J. Ward, an Atlanta private investigator. "You've got to be able to counter."

When Ward talks like that, he is surely referring to something like cyber wars between countries trying to crack Internet security systems, or perhaps new ways to conduct modern warfare.

Probe just a bit deeper, though, and it turns out his focus is on constantly evolving -- and often miniature-sized -- technologies that better enable spouses to spy on each other to collect what is often divorce-related evidence of infidelity or other forms of cheating. The thinking is that such knowledge might materially affect child custody, child support and other family law outcomes.

The practice is mushrooming across the country, in every state, and outcomes of the sleuthing game between spouses are far from easily policed or predicted, given the relatively recent rise in high-tech spousal spying and society's as-yet uncertain way of looking at it.

Does it violate privacy? Is there -- or should there be -- an exception when it comes to marriages and spousal interactions? Is there some sort of prescription that courts across the country should be following when they seek to make rulings in eavesdropping cases?

This blog entry introduces the subject -- its evolvement, parameters and repercussions -- and the increasingly central role it is playing across the landscape. Our immediately succeeding blog post will delve further into the phenomenon.

As to why there seems to be such a sudden and dramatic proliferation on spouses spying on spouses, credit the coming together of the instinctive curiosity of some suspecting marriage partners with new technologies that are cheap and provide ready answers.

"People are dying to know if their spouses are cheating," says Randall Kessler, former head of the ABA's family law section.

Our next post will show some of the ways they're finding out, as well as discuss courts' reactions to spousal spying.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "A spy-gear arms race transforms modern divorce," Steve Eder and Jennifer Valentino-Devries, Oct. 5, 2012

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