Monday, January 7, 2013

Hey, Nice Guy Getting Divorced: You Could Be A Cyber Criminal

By:  Carole L. Chiamp

I continue to be amazed by the activities of potential clients. About one of three have been engaged in electronic snooping without the vaguest idea that they may be committing a crime.

Here is a list of some cybercrimes, a brief description of the prohibited activity and the statute covering the activity.  Divorcing couples should be very wary of becoming involved in cyber activity.

Unauthorized Computer Access - MCL 752.795(a)Criminalizes the intentional and unauthorized access to a computer program, computer, computer system or computer network to acquire, alter, damage, delete or destroy property or otherwise use the services of a computer program... Punishable by 5 years imprisonment.

Think of a spouse in a divorce breaking into the other spouse’s account because he/she believes an affair is going on.

Use of Device for a Private Place - MCL 750.539d

■    A person shall not
    ‒    “install, place or use...any device”
    ‒    “in any private place”
    ‒    “without the consent of the person or persons entitled to privacy in that place”
    ‒    “for observing, recording, transmitting, photographing, or eavesdropping upon the sounds or events in that place”
■    Punishable by up to 2 years imprisonment

Think of a husband and wife in a custody dispute.  They share a home.  Wife installs and hides a webcam while the husband is away to record suspected abuse.

Use of Device for a Private Place (cont’d) - MCL 750.539(1)(b)

■    750.539(1)(b) - A person shall not
    ‒    “distribute, disseminate, or transmit for access by any other person
        ▪    a recording,
        ▪    photograph,
        ▪    or visual image
    ‒    the person knows or has reason to know was obtained in violation” of this law.
■    Punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment

Eavesdropping - MCL 750.539c

■    “Any person who is present or who is not present during a private conversation and who wilfully uses any device to eavesdrop upon the conversation without the consent of all parties” is guilty of this crime.
■    “Eavesdrop” means to “overhear, record, amplify or transmit any part of a private discourse...without the permission of all persons engaged in the discourse...”  MCL 750.539a
■    Punishable by up to 2 years imprisonment

But the Michigan Court of Appeals in Sullivan v Gray, 117 Mich App 476 (1982), held that eavesdropping precluded an eavesdropping action against a participant of the conversation.

Nude Phototaking - MCL 750.539j

■    Criminalizes photographing/distributing a person without clothes or in his/her “undergarments” under circumstances in which the individual would have a reasonable expectation of privacy
■    Punishable by up to 5 years in prison
■    NOTE: Merely surveilling is punishable by up to 2 years in prison

Think of a husband who suspects his wife of infidelity.  He comes home from a trip early and sees an unfamiliar car in the driveway.  He tiptoes to the bedroom window and takes a photo from outside the house of his wife having sex with the other man.

Cyber Harassment and Social Networks - MCL 750.411s

■    Michigan law prohibits a person from posting a message (whether truthful or untruthful), if the person intends to harass another individual by the posting
    ‒    the person must know that the posting could result in 2 or more acts of “unconsented contact” with the other individual;
    ‒    posting must be bad enough that it actually causes individual to feel frightened or harassed and would cause others to feel same way
■    Punishable by up to 2 years in prison

Think of an angry ex-husband who is upset over his divorce.  He uses this cell phone to access a chat room and posts a message indicating his former wife’s phone number and her love of phone sex.  The wife gets lots of phone calls and is very upset, losing sleep, time from work, etc.

Causing Tracking Device to be Placed in Vehicle Without Consent - MCL 750.539l

■    Prohibits “causing a tracking device to be installed or placed, in or on a motor vehicle without the knowledge and consent of the owner of that motor vehicle”
■    “‘Tracking device’ means any electronic device that is designed or intended to be used to track the location of a motor vehicle regardless of whether that information is recorded.”
■    Misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in prison

This issue has been much in the news since the United States Supreme Court prohibited police from using tracking devices.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Do Communication Tools Help or Hurt Post Divorce Co-Parenting?

By:  Carole L. Chiamp

One of the major challenges divorced parents face is how to communicate effectively after they split without major arguments.  Self-help guides and parenting programs for the divorced regularly include strategies and suggestions about how to maintain a cordial working relationship with a former spouse.  Why?  Because one of the most consistent findings about what facilitates children’s adjustment post-divorce is the degree to which former partners limit conflict.

Courts, family law attorneys and parenting coordinators often use email and texting to have divorcing parents communicate about schedules, vacations, drop-offs, pickups and sick-day care.  Almost everything can be shared so disputes can be minimized.  Many joint custody arrangements provide Skype sessions between parent and child while apart.  Parents are sometimes required to buy a cell phone for their child and call times are recorded to insure an adequate amount of time is provided to the other parent.

It is not surprising that scientists are beginning to examine whether the electronic tools are a help or hindrance.  A team of scientists at the University of Missouri led by Lawrence Ganong and Marilyn Coleman added a group of 49 parents (mostly mothers) after their divorce to determine how divorced parents use communication technologies to manage their co-parenting.
A recent Huffington Post article on this study Can Communication Technology Help Post-Divorce CoParenting reported the results of the study:

“In general, the parents interviewed for this study reported a wide range of ratings about the quality of their post-divorce relationship.  Some parents reported a very positive relationship with their ex and others reported a very negative relationship.

The study’s findings indicate that communication technologies can be used in both helpful and harmful ways.  Parents with good relationships used communication technologies such as online calendars, email reminders and others to keep their former spouse informed about activities and routines.  On the other hand, parents with poor relationships did not report that technology tools improved co-parenting.  For these parents, technology was used as a controlling strategy to limit the information the other parent had or to try to influence their reactions to events.  In some cases, cell phones were used five or more times per day; parents on the receiving end of the calls viewed this contact as harassment or troublesome and often sought to limit the contact.

There were a few cases in which technology was used to limit conflict.  In these cases, email could be used to reduce the volatility of the conversations.  Email often gives parents the chance to edit their comments to reduce the hostility in the communication.  The researchers reported that one parent was ordered by the judge to only communicate via email or text in order to reduce the amount of conflict.

The authors conclude that ‘communication technologies...make boundary maintenance both easier and more challenging.  They are unequivocally neither boon nor bane to divorced co-parents.’  For the most part, it seems that the technology tools matter relatively little.  Parents who are trying to work on co-parenting can use these tools to enhance their communication and parenting skills.  On the other hand, parents who are having difficulty co-parenting together after divorce may use these tools to harass, control and mislead the other parent.  The big challenge that remains for divorced parents is not what technology to use to communicate, but how to find a way to work together to raise their children.”

As always, technology can be used for good or evil.