When marriages fall apart, trust between spouses can become tenuous and sometimes nonexistent. Many people believe that in order to be successful in their divorce action they must have evidence of wrongdoing on the part of their spouse—and that collection of such evidence is justified by any means necessary. People often resort to eavesdropping and recording telephone calls, logging onto computers and electronic accounts without permission, and tracking a spouse's whereabouts.
The legality of these types of actions in Virginia is complex, fact-specific, and ever changing.
Among the more frequent methods used to "get the goods" on a spouse is the placement of a GPS tracker on his or her vehicle. Parties may ask a private investigator to place the tracker, or may seek to do it themselves. Per Virginia Code Section 18.2-60.5, it is currently a Class 3 misdemeanor in Virginia for a spouse to install, or have someone else install, a GPS tracing device on a vehicle, even if they own it. However, the statute makes a specific exception for registered private investigators, who are allowed to install such a device "with the consent of the owner of the property upon which the electronic tracking device is installed and placed." This means that the only legal way to track a spouse's whereabouts via GPS tracking device in Virginia is to hire a private investigator and have the investigator install the device on a vehicle that the client owns. If the client does not own the vehicle then the GPS tracker should not be installed under any circumstance.
Parties facing a divorce will occasionally resort to the installation of a GPS tracker without first understanding the legal repercussions. This can be a very costly mistake. There may be severe legal consequences for not only the client but also any attorney who viewed illegally obtained information. Under some federal and state statutes, an attorney who obtains information, knows it was obtained illegally, and views or listens to it anyway, is equally liable as their client, and may face the same consequences as the client.
If you are facing a divorce in Virginia and are considering tracking your spouse's whereabouts via GPS, it is imperative that you first speak with an attorney. An experienced family law attorney can help you understanding what, if any, steps you can take to legally obtain information through untraditional means.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
This information was supplied by James Livesay, a family law attorney at Livesay & Myers, P.C. He is one of several Leesburg divorce lawyers in the firm, handling military and civilian divorce cases in Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania and all across Northern Virginia. A former Navy JAG, Mr. Livesay and his firm handle a large number of military divorce cases.
James Livesay can be contacted by phone at (540) 371-4140 or or Visit Web Site