We've all seen TV and movie depictions of private detectives parked outside of hotel rooms taking photos of cheating spouses meeting up with their paramours to gather evidence for a suspicious husband or wife. That's not completely a thing of the past. However, surveillance is much more sophisticated these days. It's easier than ever to set up hidden microphones and cameras in the home as well as install software in computers to gather emails and other data.

Is It Legal to Spy on Your Spouse?

It may be tempting to do that, particularly if you have a spouse whom you want to prove is abusive or neglectful of your children and you believe he or she is abusing drugs or hiding money and other assets. However, it's essential to know applicable local and state laws before you do this. Not only may such evidence be thrown out of court, but you may find yourself in legal jeopardy and on the wrong end of a civil lawsuit.

Most states allow surveillance where only one party is aware of it. However, in the remainder, both parties have to know that an audio or video recording is being made. Otherwise, it's illegal.

Will Surveillance Help or Hurt Your Case?

Further, it may not be worthwhile to collect some types of evidence. You may be dying to get proof that your spouse is having an affair. However, adultery, even when it is proven, rarely impacts divorce settlements anymore. Courts also may look askance at evidence that has been obtained by a private investigator or through some other type of surveillance. Therefore, unless you need to prove that your spouse is abusive or is hiding or stealing money or doing something illegal, providing evidence of bad behavior may actually work against you.

Before you spend your money on a private investigator or decide to become a sleuth yourself, it's essential to talk with your divorce attorney. These attorneys know what is and isn't legal where you live. They can also advise you whether gathering evidence to prove your claim or suspicions is worthwhile or whether, in fact, it may hurt your case.