Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Is snooping in your spouse's e-mail a crime?

Is snooping in your spouse's e-mail a crime?

By John Springer TODAYshow.com contributor

Video: Is snooping in your spouse's e-mail a crime? 

TODAYshow.com contributor
updated 1 hour 3 minutes ago 2010-12-28T15:39:17 

Is snooping in your spouse's e-mail a crime?

By John Springer TODAYshow.com contributor
Video: Is snooping in your spouse's e-mail a crime?
TODAYshow.com contributor
updated 1 hour 3 minutes ago 2010-12-28T15:39:17
A Michigan man who accessed his wife's e-mail account while she was allegedly carrying on an affair faces up to five years in prison when he goes on trial Feb. 7 on a charge he violated a state law typically used against hackers intent on making money or mayhem. 

The question for the judge or jurors who will hear the case isn't whether Clara Walker gave Leon Walker, 33, permission to inspect her Google e-mail; he admits she didn't know what he was up to until her e-mail messages became an issue in their divorce and child custody battle.
But Leon Walker claims that he had every right to poke around in the computer because he was concerned that his wife's lover - the second of her two former husbands - might be abusive to her around their young children. Walker also contends that he had the right to go on the computer because he bought it, it was in his home, and she left the password lying around.

'No choice'
"She kept a copy of every password she had next to her computer in her address book," Walker told NBC News in a report that aired Tuesday on TODAY. "I felt that with the risk to my daughter and to my stepson, I had an obligation to check. I had no choice."

However, prosecutors in Michigan say Walker did have a choice, and made a bad one. They have charged him with unauthorized access to a computer in order to "acquire, alter, damage, delete or destroy property."

Leon Walker, 33, who says he learned of his wife's affair by reading her e-mail on their computer, faces trial on felony computer misuse charges. Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Sydney Turner said the charge is justified. But because the statute doesn't specifically address the issue of a computer that is arguably a jointly owned marital asset, Walker's lawyer, Leon Weiss, is expected to argue that the statute should not be applied to domestic snooping.
If the prosecution is successful, the repercussions for the criminal justice system could be profound. "If there's going to be a concerted effort in the future to prosecute everybody who looks at somebody else's e-mail under their roof, they had better build a bunch more courthouses because we don't have enough courthouses," Weiss said.
Vote: Have you ever snooped in your significant other's e-mail?
Privacy law writer Frederick Lane told the Detroit Free Press that the law typically is used to prosecute identity theft and stealing trade secrets. He says he questions whether a wife can expect privacy on a computer she shares with her husband.

Opening the floodgates?
The problem with prosecuting people for merely reading other people's e-mails is that it is just so easy to do when the parties are in a relationship, Rikki Klieman, a criminal defense attorney and former Court TV anchor, told Natalie Morales Tuesday on TODAY.
If prosecutors around the country follow Michigan's lead and apply hacking laws to husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, the criminal courts will be deluged with cases that rightly belong before family court judges, Klieman said. "Are we going to put all of these people in prison? Are we going to prosecute people for felonies?

Video: Is snooping in your spouse's e-mail a crime? (on this page)
"If the legislature wants to enact a specific law that says 'Thou shalt not look at thy spouse's intimate e-mails,' let them go ahead and do it," she added. "You would think there is more serious crime they have to deal with."

Clara Walker declined comment when contacted by NBC News
Clara Walker declined comment when contacted by NBC News.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holiday Tips for Divorced Families

ParentAndChildChristmas.jpgIn our last post, we discussed parental alienation syndrome and the importance of children having both parents in their lives. Right now, the holiday season is upon us and Christmas is a short nine days away. The holidays can be a very stressful time for divorced parents.

Many of us can look back fondly on our childhood memories of the holidays, but for children of divorce their memories can be quite different if parents fight. Thankfully, Dr. Mary Anne LoFrumento, the author of the "Simply Parenting" series has some tips to help divorced parents give their children the most joyous holidays possible. We would like to share the Doctor's tips with you to keep in mind when planning for the holidays.

Putting the Children First
This time of year, it is especially important to put the needs of the children first. Bad holiday memories often come from fights between the parents over scheduling, gifts, or sharing time. If arguments arise between you and your ex-spouse, do your best to keep the kids out of it.

Show Unity
Children are very observant and they know when their parents are fighting. It is important for both parents to keep a positive attitude about the holidays and that it is still a special time of the year even if not everyone is together. It is a great gesture to help younger children pick or make a gift for the other parent.
Often, the divorce decree or agreement will detail what days the children spend with which parent. It is important to stick to this schedule, but if there is no schedule, it is important to plan ahead in detail.
Try to avoid splitting days between parents. Splitting days does not allow children to fully enjoy the time they spend with one parent if they are constantly worried about leaving. If families live near each other, make sure that the kids get to spend at least one full day with each parent. When families live too far apart to visit both sides, some parents will alternate years.

It is important to communicate your plans to the children and explain to them what is going on. Some children will feel guilty about leaving a parent behind. In those situations, letting the child know what you will be doing while he or she is gone will often help with that guilty feeling.

Sticking to your holiday plans and dropping of and picking up the kids on time is a top priority, except in cases of emergency.

Keeping in Touch
If you cannot be with a child on a holiday, planning for a phone call in the morning is a great way to make the child feel special, and this will help the child feel better about being away.

Avoid Gift Contests
Some parents will engage in competitive gift giving and try to give bigger and more expensive gifts than the other parent. In addition to coordinating schedules, coordinating and discussing gifts is a good way for divorced parents to avoid competition.

WPTV.com, "Keeping the 'joy' in the holiday season for families of divorce," Connie Colla, 12/15/2010
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Parental Alienation Syndrome Gains Increased Recognition

parental alienation.jpgParental alienation syndrome, or PAS, is the result of one parent engaging in an effort to isolate, denigrate or alienate the other parent. Cases involving parental alienation syndrome often involve children becoming hateful or fearful of one of their parents after a divorce. The consequences to both the alienated parent and the child can have devastating life-long effects.

PAS is recognized by most family law judges, but many judges are not aware of its serious effects and do not know the best way to address and prevent PAS. However, there is a strong movement in the psychiatric community to promote awareness of PAS and classify it in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The DSM is an official catalog of mental disorders.

One of the leading proponents for including PAS in the manual is William Bernet, a psychiatrist at Vanderbilt University who has said PAS "causes horrible outcomes for children." Not only have studies shown that PAS causes long-term harm to children, children who are affected by PAS effectively lose half of their family and half of their heritage.

Psychologists say that PAS cases range from mild to severe. Mild cases involve a parent who is unaware of what he or she is doing and will stop alienating behavior when they learn how harmful it is to the child. Moderately harmful cases involve a parent treating the other parent like an adversary and asking a child to spy on the other parent. Severe cases involve narcissism or a strong fear of abandonment and an obsessive hatred for an ex-spouse. In severe cases, the alienating parent's hatred for his or her ex-spouse is stronger than the instinct to protect their children from harm.

Source: Denver Post, "Recognizing parental alienation syndrome," Mary Winter, 12/5/2010