Naked pictures and sex tapes in your Virginia divorce

Posted on Apr 18, 2016 by Katie Carter

Relationships end for all sorts of reasons and in all sorts of ways. In my experience, most people are able (after a time) to negotiate a way out of the relationship that takes both people’s interests into account. With time, they manage the fear, sadness, pain, anger, resentment, or bitterness they might have been feeling at the beginning of the break up, and replace it with peace, hope, happiness, love, and respect. Whether there’s a divorce involved or only left over custody issues, there are often legal steps that need to be taken to protect both people’s interests.
Though the breakups are all different, the beginnings of a relationship usually look the same. (Which, basically, is exactly what Tolstoy says in Anna Karenina; “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”.) Everyone is happy and in love and excited for the future. No one can see the chinks in the armor, the disagreements or inconsistencies that will cause problems in the future. No one, who is newly in love, can think ahead to the potential fall out. Because everyone who is new in love sees the future through rose colored glasses, sometimes they make mistakes.
One of the peskiest issues I see is when clients allow naked pictures to be taken or sex tapes to be made.
Everyone is doing it these days. It feels like there is often a feature story in the news about a naked picture or sex tape of a celebrity that was leaked.
It’s not that you don’t have every right to do whatever you choose with your own body. You absolutely do. And you have the right to share whatever you want with whomever you choose. But, when you take a naked picture or make a sex tape, you cede control to other people, too. When you break up, the potential for those types of things to be used against you negatively is definitely there. I’ve had cases where this happens, too.
Legally, there can also be ramifications. If you’re involved in a custody case, it doesn’t look good to have naked pictures and sex tapes out there. If yours is a divorce case, you also risk trouble—particularly if the other participant was not your husband. As you can probably imagine, a lot really depends on the circumstances behind which the pictures were taken.
In a custody case, it wouldn’t be particularly damning for your (soon to be ex) husband to introduce evidence that the two of you had a robust sex life; obviously, it takes two to tango (which is why you’re in court fighting over custody in the first place!). It’s kind of like pot that way. One person doing it on their own might affect their fitness to be a parent, but both parents doing it together sort of neutralizes the negative impact. (Still, though, it won’t be a positive point in your favor!)
Likewise, in a divorce case, it probably won’t affect you—unless the person that you’re naked with (or filming sex with) isn’t your husband. Depending on the footage, it could be pretty strong evidence of adultery, which is not a place you want to find yourself. If you are found to have committed adultery, you won’t be entitled to receive spousal support at all—and you’ll risk receiving less of the marital assets, too. (Though judges don’t always—or even most of the time—do this, you should know that it is possible, based on the negative nonmonetary contribution of one party, to award less of the shared assets to them because of that behavior.)
Of course, if your husband hacks into your email or your password protected phone and takes your pictures, he may also face some legal ramifications. That may be a small comfort to you, but once your pictures or your tapes are out there in the world, there’s very little you can do to get it back. (After all, you can’t make eyes un-see!)
Most of the time, the “leak” of compromising photos and videos aren’t damaging to a divorce or custody case (though they could be, and you should be aware of that)—they’re just embarrassing (and also potentially personally and professionally damaging in other ways).
Before you allow these pictures and videos to be taken, you should be aware of the potential consequences. It’s easy to think you’re going to be happy together forever (and, for your sake, I certainly hope you are), but it’s also easy to take steps to protect yourself—just in case!
As far as it relates to sex tapes and naked pictures, as an attorney, I have to say just don’t do it! I know it can be tempting, and certainly you trust your partner, but it’s just too easy for these things to get out and wreak all kinds of havoc.

But what if I’m getting a divorce (or planning to separate), and I already know there are sex tapes or naked pictures of me? What should I do to protect myself now?

No matter what the facts of your particular case are, I think the best and most important step is to get as much up to date, Virginia specific, divorce related information as possible. That way, you can begin to plan your next steps with as much information as possible.
The people who tend to wind up with the worst divorces (and the ones where their husbands are the most likely to use whatever they have in their arsenal against their wives) are the ones who jump into a divorce with their fists swinging. They don’t know what they want, what their rights are, or how anything works, but they’re hell bent and determined to come out on top—whatever that means.
The more time you take to gather information and make sure you’re up to speed about the divorce process in Virginia, the more likely you can go into the process with specific goals and an open mind. Rather than dealing defensively with your husband, you can craft a solid offense. It’s not a foolproof plan, but it’s certainly better than starting off assuming the worst.
A lot of times, your attitude can dictate how your divorce proceeds, especially in the beginning when tensions are already running a little bit high. It’s the same in a custody case. When you’re just starting out, everyone is scared and prone to overreact. If you go into it with a level head and treat your husband (or your child’s father) with respect, it’s much more likely that he’ll do the same. I’m not saying that there won’t be days when you hate each others guts, but he’ll be less likely to do something nasty if you’re being cordial.
A great place to start is by attending one of our women’s only divorce seminars. Our Second Saturday seminars (so-called because we have them on the second Saturday—and, incidentally, the third Tuesday) of each month are formally known as “What Every Virginia Woman Should Know About Divorce,” and cover tons of important information about the divorce process in Virginia. (Trust me, you need to know this!) Each seminar (even better!) is taught by one of our licensed and experienced Virginia divorce and custody attorneys, so you can ask your questions, too.
The more prepared you are, the better! For more information, to sign up for Second Saturday, or to schedule an appointment right now with one of our licensed and experienced Virginia divorce and custody attorneys, give our office a call at (757) 425-5200.