Published On: April 4, 2024

Can I Open My Spouse’s Mail During Divorce in New York?

Going through a divorce can be a highly charged and emotional situation. Especially in fault or contested divorces, the communication between spouses has likely deteriorated and efforts toward cooperation can already be tenuous.

Getting the help of an experienced New York City divorce attorney can be beneficial, especially if you are in a contentious divorce. Ryan Besinque, a top-rated Manhattan divorce attorney, has represented the rights of many individuals in both contested and uncontested divorce cases in New York. The Law Offices of Ryan Besinque is a Manhattan firm dedicated to providing quality legal counsel and representation in matters of divorce and family law. Call us today at (929) 251 4477 to schedule a free consultation.

Opening your Spouse’s Mail During a New York Divorce

When you are going through a difficult divorce, it’s understandable to want to gain an edge especially if you feel like you have been taken advantage of by your spouse. Perhaps you have an inkling or a suspicion that your spouse has been doing something unsavory. The temptation to investigate your spouse’s mail or email to look for evidence of such wrongdoing can be strong and you may have a distinct impression that the information you get can be used in your favor during the divorce proceedings.

However, it is important to remember that just as you have legal rights that need to be protected, your spouse is also afforded the same rights under the law. Invasive actions such as tampering with your spouse’s mail or logging into their email account without their knowledge can have serious consequences, legal or otherwise.

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Risk of Lawsuits

Opening mail that is not directly or jointly addressed to you is considered punishable by federal law. Under 18 U.S. Code § 1702, opening another person’s mail with the intent to pry into their business is punishable with a fine or up to a five-year prison sentence. Without your spouse’s explicit consent, you should not open communications such as their mail. Charges of Obstruction of Correspondence may be filed against you, depending on how you intercepted and stored the mail.

Gaining unauthorized access to your spouse’s email, or other social media accounts and changing the password to lock them out of their account can also result in criminal charges. You may face felony charges under the Wiretap Act of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 or under the New York laws for Unauthorized use of a computer (N.Y. Penal Law § 156.05) or other related cybercrime charges.

Information Discovery and Illegal Evidence

Spouses often intercept their partner’s mail to use as evidence to gain an advantage in divorce proceedings. However, there is already a legal avenue that allows you access to this information. After your divorce claim has been filed with the court, you and your Manhattan divorce attorney can initiate the discovery process. 

Discovery is the pre-trial official process of collecting information pertaining to your case. As part of the litigation process, you can petition the court for access to information that may be helpful to your case. This may be helpful in getting your spouse’s financial information to determine whether you can petition for alimony, learning about any hidden assets they may have that you are entitled to, and obtaining a subpoena for their calls and text logs, if necessary.  

Obtaining the legal documents for you to gain the information you desire may take some time and you might be tempted to take matters into your own hands. Still, even if you do get incriminating information about your spouse through opening their mail, the court may not admit evidence obtained illegally in your divorce case. It is important to seek a qualified attorney’s advice and refrain from doing anything that can jeopardize your case.

Type of Action Legal Consequences Details
Opening someone’s mail Fine or up to a five-year prison sentence According to 18 U.S. Code § 1702, opening another person’s mail with the intent to pry into their business is punishable by law.
Tampering with mail Charges of Obstruction of Correspondence Tampering with someone’s mail without their consent may result in charges of obstructing correspondence, which can have legal consequences.
Unauthorized email access Felony charges under Wiretap Act or cybercrime charges Gaining unauthorized access to your spouse’s email or social media accounts, and changing passwords can lead to criminal charges.

Overall Impact on the Tone of the Divorce Case

The first few days and weeks after the decision to get a divorce can be the most crucial to setting the tone of the divorce. Having feelings of resentment towards your spouse and fear about the changes the divorce would bring to your life is understandable. However, trying to get control over this uncertainty by invading your spouse’s privacy can further drive a wedge into your already troubled relationship.

Divorce cases can take a long time to conclude, despite the court’s intervention in a contested divorce. There are also other aspects of divorce, like child custody and visitation, child support, as well as co-parenting any child you might share that would benefit from your and your spouse’s cooperation. While you may be operating in the interest of protecting your and your children’s best interests, it is still beneficial to look toward the bigger picture and avoid any actions that may put the possibility of a better, friendlier outcome at risk. 

Is it Illegal to Open Someone Else’s Mail

The issue of whether it is legal to access someone else’s email is a valid concern, and in general, the answer is yes, it is illegal if you knowingly access an email not intended for you. Opening someone else’s email without authorization can have severe legal consequences at the federal level.

Accidentally stumbling upon an email meant for someone else is a common occurrence. Many people check their emails without much thought, and it is possible to unintentionally access someone else’s email. While this action itself may not be considered illegal, what you do after realizing your mistake is crucial. According to federal law, deliberately preventing an email from reaching its intended recipient is illegal. To rectify the situation, it is recommended to promptly delete the email and inform the sender of the error.

However, purposefully accessing and opening an email that is not addressed to you constitutes unauthorized access. If you share a communal email account or have access to someone else’s email without their consent, accessing and opening their emails can lead to serious legal consequences. Unauthorized access to someone’s email may result in federal charges and a penalty of up to five years in prison.

Safeguarding Personal Privacy and Confidentiality in Divorce Proceedings

During divorce proceedings, it’s crucial to maintain strict boundaries regarding personal privacy and confidentiality. In New York, as in many other jurisdictions, accessing your spouse’s mail without consent can lead to legal repercussions. Under federal law, specifically the 18 U.S. Code § 1702, it is illegal to open, conceal, or destroy another person’s mail. This statute remains applicable regardless of marital status, and violating it can result in serious penalties, including fines and imprisonment.

In the context of a divorce, privacy takes on heightened significance. Both parties are entitled to privacy rights, which means that accessing your spouse’s personal correspondence is not only disrespectful but also unlawful. Divorce proceedings require a level of transparency regarding financial and other relevant matters; however, this does not extend to personal communications that are not pertinent to the case.

To safeguard personal privacy:

  • Respect Boundaries: Do not open, intercept, or tamper with your spouse’s mail. This includes emails and other digital communications.
  • Legitimate Channels: Obtain necessary information through legal means such as discovery processes, subpoenas, or court orders.
  • Consult Your Attorney: If you believe that your spouse’s correspondence contains information critical to your case, discuss it with your legal counsel. They can advise on the proper legal steps to take.
  • Secure Your Communications: Protect your privacy by securing your mail and digital accounts, particularly if you suspect your spouse might attempt to breach your privacy.

Remember, protecting privacy in a divorce is about adhering to the law and ensuring that the proceedings are fair and respectful. When in doubt, always seek the guidance of your attorney to navigate these sensitive issues properly.

Getting the Help of a Top-Rated Manhattan Divorce Attorney

Working with a New York divorce attorney who is knowledgeable about the law and can offer experienced and compassionate advice can make a huge difference in the result of your case. Ryan Besinque, a skilled Manhattan divorce attorney, may be able to walk you through the process of your divorce.  

Our qualified attorneys at the Law Office of Ryan Besinque understand how overwhelming divorce proceedings can be. We provide quality legal services and diligently work toward a resolution that serves our client’s best interests. Contact us today at (929) 251 4477 to speak with an experienced Manhattan divorce attorney and to schedule a free consultation regarding your case.

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