Smart Homes and Virginia Divorce and Custody Cases

Posted on Jun 6, 2018 by Katie Carter

Technology creates all sorts of new issues when it comes to divorce and custody cases, and it seems like almost every week I’m hearing about some new issue or other that my clients are facing. This week, it seems like most of what I’ve heard about relates to advances in technology, and, specifically, to smart home technology.

I like a smart home, too. I have a Nest thermostat (which I love), and a smart deadbolt lock on the door that a signal from my smartphone unlocks. I have a video doorbell, and a pretty fancy security system. My alarm company can even video chat with me from my alarm system’s control panel in the event of an emergency.

We also have a gun safe. Hey, it can’t all be high tech. And it’s in my blood; after all, my parents own Wilcox Bait and Tackle, a local sporting goods store (and purveyor of firearms) whose motto is “We don’t call 911.” Okay, I’m exaggerating for the sake of humor, but there IS a sign in the store that says that.
I believe in safety. I believe in technology, mostly. But, doing what I do, I also come up against some pretty good reasons NOT to use too much technology in the home.

There is literally tons and tons of data being stored about each and every one of us. Cookies are being saved on our computers that help companies display relevant ads to us. (Have you ever been followed by a pair of shoes or a dress you’ve been eyeing? Yeah, me neither…) Our smartphones are little GPS beacons, sending out or location to the world. Companies can use our geolocation, based on our smartphone’s location, to send adds or coupons directly to our phones, too!

What we’re searching on our computers, tablets, and smartphones isn’t perfectly safe. I’ve even heard of computers displaying ads for products or services that a person only searched for on their smartphone; these companies can identify devices that share a wireless network!

Google Home and Alexa

We invite these devices into our homes. And it isn’t just our smartphones, either, though they’re probably one of the biggest culprits. There are GoogleHome and Alexa devices now, too, which I’ve heard of being used for recording conversations inside the home.  Besides that, they can even do things like send text messages and email conversations. I’ve heard of some weird glitchy things happening, and people’s privacy being violated. Not to mention all the credit-related scams and other stuff where people’s identify information is compromised!

Video doorbells

Think about video doorbells, too… I don’t know about yours, but mine records activity outside the house. If you have someone coming in (or your husband does) who you don’t want noticed by your spouse, well, that information may be stored on a home security app.

Can you set it up to let people in, on a one time or regularly reoccurring basis? Yup, that data is stored somewhere, too, and it’s discoverable – both in the legal sense, and in the real life sense (like, your husband – or you – could log in to an app and get all sorts of information).

Baby Monitors and other Video Recording Products

Baby monitors aren’t the only video recording products out there, but they jump readily to my mind. A friend of mine (another attorney, actually) was telling me that she has security video stuff set up in her home so she can monitor the premises on her regular (and quite lengthy – I’m so jealous!) vacations.

Keep in mind, though, that these cameras have eyes whether you’re inside of or outside of the home, and can often be set to record conversations or comings and goings, even without your knowledge.

I love that technology keeps us safer, and I often use my baby monitor to watch my nannies while they’re in my house. Sometimes, I just check in during the day while I’m at work so I can see my baby sleeping. I love that. But, on at least one occasion, I checked in only to find that I could overhear a conversation between my husband and one of his friends (they were joking – good naturedly! – on my mom at the time). On another, I won’t lie to you, I used it to watch our old house during an open house while we were trying to sell it. I saw the couple come through the nursery who then later bought the house. I felt sort of bad about it at the time. Sort of.

I don’t know about you, but I’m fairly uncomfortable with knowing how much information is out there about me, my location, my credit card number and credit score, my likes and dislikes, and on and on.
A couple of months ago, I saw a thing where you could figure out what information Facebook had gleaned about you – things like your political leanings, your hair type, your gender, age, and profession – all from things that you had liked or searched through your social media account.

Social media creates a whole host of other issues, too, and you should make sure that you’re very aware of what you’re doing, especially if you’re facing a divorce or custody case. For more information on mistakes we see women making on social media, request a copy of our free report by clicking here. (LINK)

It’s a good idea to be aware of the smart devices you have in your home, and the information that these devices could be storing. If there’s anything in your home that can record either audio or video recordings (it’s not just nanny cams anymore!), then your home officially has eyes. It’s a little creepy, if you think about it, even if you’re just checking up to make sure your baby’s afternoon nap is going okay.

Make sure you’re thinking about these smart home items. Be cognizant of their presence, and make a conscious decision about whether you actually want them in your home. If you do, be aware of their presence, and don’t do anything that you don’t want captured on video or audio and displayed for the whole courtroom to see.

For more information, or to set up a consultation one on one with one of our licensed and experienced Virginia divorce and custody attorneys, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.