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Family Law: Sex, Lies and Videotape

Tonight's post on the insideous use of technology in family law, was written by our Savannah divorce Attorney, David Purvis.

As the technology around us constantly expands what we thought was only possible in spy movies years ago, I have seen an increase in parties to a family law case recording phone calls and personal interactions between them.

I've grown to accept that when I leave my house in the morning, I'll be "watched" on all sorts of surveillance cameras - the ATM, banks, gas stations, grocery stores. Even the intersections of the downtown Savannah streets have "eyes". A lot of this is for personal safety of employees, customers, and citizens- the thought at least being that video surveillance acts as a deterrent for would be criminals.

Too often, the video surveillance that shows up in the realm of family law cases is not tape that was recorded in public places, but in bedrooms, behind closed doors, in the areas of our lives we hold most private, or in phone conversations with the people we at least once trusted. It comes out at trial that something that was believed to have been a private moment is now a part of the public record forever. Absent cases of abuse, it has no deterrent effect on anyone, it often fails to serve any grand purpose other than an effort to get a few transient more dollars in asset division or alimony award, but it has a permanent devastating effect - trust is now officially gone out the window, co-parenting is going to be difficult at best, and often a line has been crossed that can never be retracted.

As a society, we have, I feel, become accustomed to the idea that when we leave our homes we are likely going to be recorded somewhere during our venture out. We may not be happy about it, but we have collectively come to realize that it is the reality of the world we live in. If I had my druthers, we could all go home at night and enjoy the privilege of knowing that a video or audio recording wasn't running secretly hidden nearby, waiting to record some moment of our lives we EXPECT to be private and personal. But that's not reality. Not only are text messages and emails between parties admissible in court, but when the other side can't get you to write about that silver bullet they're looking for in their case, they may seek to get you recorded saying it.

I'm not saying that there is no room for recorded conversations in evidence, but I've seen some very long-lasting negative effects result from what was a fairly short term benefit. It would be nice if folks would "pause" before they hit "record" and weigh the short term and long term aspects of what they are embarking on. My point is this: we now live in a world where everything we say, do, and write can easily be recorded for posterity. Be conscientious of your words and actions, and if your phone conversation with your spouse seems odd, you may just be on the other end of a recording.

So say "cheese."

David Purvis

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