Social media has blurred the lines between what is public and what is private and changed the way that people gather evidence to use in a divorce proceeding. Nevertheless, there are laws that govern online behavior, and a person conducting legal discovery on a spouse’s status through social media while going through a divorce in Wisconsin should take care that the behavior does not cross the line into cyberstalking.
Wisconsin law designates stalking as a class I felony, and the language of the law includes monitoring behavior or sending material to someone for the purpose of communicating a threat via any means, including electronically, as a course of conduct that could lead to a criminal stalking charge. It may not help the defendant to claim ignorance of the effects of his or her actions; the law does not require that the actor know his or her actions could cause another party emotional distress, merely that the person should know.
Though a serious charge in itself, cyberstalking may also work to the actor’s detriment during divorce proceedings. According to FindLaw, the court may take a charge of cyberstalking into account during a custody hearing, and it may come to bear in determining how much contact one has with one’s children. A charge of cyberstalking one’s spouse may lead to a restraining order or further charge of domestic violence in addition to the stalking charge.
Those who view a spouse’s social media accounts for purposes of legal discovery should proceed with caution. Under no circumstances should one use the platform to send an electronic message to one’s spouse. It may be advisable to view accounts only in the presence of a lawyer or other trusted party in order to help curb one’s potentially damaging impulses.