Imagine this—your spouse is in the shower and you notice they’re getting a lot of text messages. You flip over the phone, and see their inbox is full of explicit texts and pictures going back and forth between your spouse and a coworker. You’ve had your suspicion of infidelity, but now you have proof! What do you do next?
Before you do anything else, you should contact Adkins Law and set up a consult about your situation. In North Carolina, marital misconduct is a big deal. It can be used as the basis for a fault-based divorce, in determining alimony, and in so called heart balm torts like criminal conversation or alienation of affection suits. Unfortunately, those incriminating texts may not be enough to prove infidelity on their own.
“But what do you mean this isn’t enough?!”, you’re surely asking. This is a frustrating side effect of new technology coming into the courts. While these text messages may be very explicit and constitute cheating in your mind, absent proof that there was inclination and opportunity to have actual, physical sexual conduct, it simply is not enough.
This is not the end, however. These text messages may be very helpful in bolstering your claim of infidelity. For example, if you know that your spouse and their coworker went on a “work trip” together and shared a room, you can likely make the case that they had both inclination and opportunity to engage in a sexual relationship, and those text messages only make it more likely that they did. Text messages may also detail an encounter that occurred between the parties that can be used to show that a sexual relationship is ongoing or to show that third party driving a wedge into the marriage.
Remember, text messages, emails, phone records and the like can all be used as supporting evidence, but it is important that they are collected correctly and authenticated to be used in court.
If you are interested in pursuing a divorce based on infidelity or have any questions about how to correctly preserve those text messages, contact Adkins Law today to set up a consult.
By: Sarah Bennett
While I have been known to waste my time with even some of Bravo’s most questionable programming (I’m looking at you, Relationshep), on Monday nights, I really live for Vanderpump Rules (“VPR” for all the insiders). Last week, Bravo aired the 101st episode of VPR: “Sex, Lies and Audiotape.” The gist of the episode was that our anti-hero, Jax, recently confessed to his girlfriend, Brittany, that he slept with Faith, another co-worker. While Jax contends that his episode of unfaithfulness (pun intended) was a one-time slip-up and that he truly loves Brittany, Faith claims otherwise. In fact, Faith shares with the rest of their friends that she possesses an audio recording of Jax stating that he’s no longer sexually attracted to Brittany and that he never intends to marry her (Jax and Brittany’s path towards the altar – and Brittany’s desire to expedite that journey – is a major topic on both VPR and its spin-off, Vanderpump Rules: Jax and Brittany Take Kentucky, which I have also shamelessly watched).
If you are still reading this post, you may be wondering what my personal interest in the questionably authentic relationships of servers at a Southern Californian restaurant has to do with family law in North Carolina. The answer: wiretapping laws! Just about weekly, Chris or I consult with a client who wants to know whether a secret recording he or she made of their spouse (or some other individual) can be used in court. As with many questions about family law, the answer is, “it depends.”
For purposes of state wiretapping laws, North Carolina is a one-party consent state. What that means, generally, is that it does not violate state law for you to record an in-person or telephone conversation between yourself and another person (so long as everybody is in North Carolina when the recording is made). On the other hand, it would violate our state’s laws for you to secretly record a conversation between your spouse and a third person when neither your spouse nor that third person know that they are being recorded. So let’s think about it in terms of VPR: Faith, unbeknownst to Jax, recorded a private conversation between Jax and herself. If this had all occurred in North Carolina, Faith would face no state criminal or civil liability and the court would likely admit the recording as evidence if Faith and Jax were later involved in a lawsuit. However, let’s imagine if the situation were a little different; for instance, let’s say that Brittany, suspicious that Jax may be cheating, wanted to know what Faith and Jax were saying and doing behind Brittany’s back. So, Brittany decided to “bug” Jax for the purpose of secretly recording Faith and Jax’s private conversations without either Jax or Faith knowing about the recording or giving Brittany permission to do so. If all of these actions occurred in North Carolina, this would be problematic for Brittany – not only would Brittany’s recording be inadmissible in any kind of legal proceeding, but she could also be facing civil liability or even felony wiretapping charges.
This “bugging” hypothetical is akin to when a person secretly records their spouse’s conversation with a possible paramour or a child. Absent one of the recorded parties giving their consent to the recording, generally, this is not permissible in North Carolina (there is, however, a good faith exception known as vicarious consent in certain circumstances when one is recording a child). While I am not admitted to practice law in California, a cursory Google searched revealed that California, where VPR is filmed, is a two-party consent state. That means that in California and any of the other eleven two-party consent states, a person who wants to record a conversation needs the permission of all parties to the conversation prior to making the recording. I would imagine this could potentially mean legal trouble for Faith if she did not let Jax know that she was recording him; this might also provide some insight into why Bravo opted not to air the contents of the actual recording, but instead filmed the Bravolebrities’ reactions to hearing the recording.
Returning to the law in our state, there are some additional exceptions to North Carolina wiretapping laws. For instance, cameras can be used in public places (such as streets, hotel lobbies, parks, etc.) to record the area. This is not considered illegal wiretapping because an individual has no reasonable expectation of privacy in these public areas. Obviously, this does not apply to “upskirt” cameras or other criminal recording methods – but there can be another blog post (and probably another reality TV show) in which we can examine those issues.
Outside of the family law context, there are additional, legitimate scenarios where one may want to record a conversation, such as a performance review at work or an encounter with a police officer. Clearly, the laws in North Carolina regarding wiretapping are complicated. I strongly suggest that anybody thinking of making an audio or video recording read the governing North Carolina law (N.C.G.S. § 15A-287) and consult an experienced attorney for advice on the issue. In the meantime, happy reality television-watching!
What constitutes marital misconduct in North Carolina and why does it matter? Several things may constitute marital misconduct in North Carolina, including illicit sexual behavior, abandonment, cruel or barbarous treatment, or excessive use of alcohol or drugs. This is important because marital misconduct may guarantee or bar alimony.
In North Carolina, alimony may be awarded when there is a dependent / supporting relationship. This means that one spouse, the dependent spouse, relies upon the income of the supporting spouse to maintain his or her lifestyle. If the dependent spouse commits marital misconduct during the period of marriage, prior to separation, the dependent spouse is barred from alimony. On the other hand, if the supporting spouse commits marital misconduct during the period of marriage, prior to separation, the dependent spouse is guaranteed alimony.
If you need to speak with a family lawyer in Huntersville NC concerning marital misconduct or alimony, contact Adkins Law. Adkins Law is located in Huntersville NC and primarily serves the Lake Norman area.
North Carolina General Statute 50-16.1A defines marital misconduct. The relevant portion of the statute has been included below:
N.C.G.S. § 50-16.1A
"Marital misconduct" means any of the following acts that occur during the marriage and prior to or on the date of separation:
a. Illicit sexual behavior. For the purpose of this section, illicit sexual behavior means acts of sexual or deviate sexual intercourse, deviate sexual acts, or sexual acts defined in G.S. 14-27.1(4), voluntarily engaged in by a spouse with someone other than the other spouse;
b. Involuntary separation of the spouses in consequence of a criminal act committed prior to the proceeding in which alimony is sought;
c. Abandonment of the other spouse;
d. Malicious turning out-of-doors of the other spouse;
e. Cruel or barbarous treatment endangering the life of the other spouse;
f. Indignities rendering the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome;
g. Reckless spending of the income of either party, or the destruction, waste, diversion, or concealment of assets;
h. Excessive use of alcohol or drugs so as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome;
i. Willful failure to provide necessary subsistence according to one's means and condition so as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome.