By: Susan M. Wyckoff, Esquire
Imagine being out with your girlfriends…an innocent night of girl talk while enjoying a few tapas and some wine. One of your friends who has recently re-entered the single scene shows you the dating website she has been trying out. You have been happily married for several years, so you have been out of the dating scene, but of course, are naturally curious. What harm could possibly come from watching your single friend search for the new love of her life?
Your friend opens up her Tinder page, shows you her profile and explains how it works – various pictures of men will appear, most of which will have the man’s name and age in the lower left hand corner, some of which may have a brief profile, including his profession and workplace… swipe left if you are not interested or swipe right if you are interested. If she “swipes right,” and the man in the photo “swipes right” on her photo, there will be a match, and potentially an online conversation that will hopefully lead to a meetup. Riveting! While swiping through the photos, you see various pictures of men, some attractive, some not. You and your friends have an innocent laugh or two, until one photo suddenly makes your heart sink …the man in the photo IS YOUR HUSBAND! It takes your girlfriends a minute longer to recognize him, but suddenly everyone is silent in disbelief. What do you do?
- Ask your friend to take a screen shot of every picture and every word of the profile.
- Then ask your friend to text or e-mail the photos to another friend. Do not text or e-mail the photos to yourself yet, in the event that your spouse, or worse, your children, have access to your e-mail or text messages.
- If your husband has never met your friend, ask her to swipe right to see if there is a match.
- If there is a match let him initiate the conversation, and if, and when he does, have your girlfriend takes screen shots of all of the direct messaging.
At this point, you may be tempted to take matters into your own hands such as having your girlfriend set up a meeting with him where you appear with your other friends – very, very bad idea. It is highly unlikely that you will have any productive conversation with your spouse about his or her on-line dating presence. In addition, if you confront your spouse, you are not only putting yourself at a disadvantage as to discovering all of the facts, but you are also putting your spouse on notice to try to cover-up his or her behavior.
The next step is to contact an attorney who is experienced in the area of family law as it is now time for you understand what rights you have and do not have. In addition, the attorney may refer you to a private investigator for further investigation of your spouse’s conduct. Your attorney should also be familiar with companies that are able to legally and defensibly capture, preserve and analyze web content. Consulting with a family law attorney, does not always lead to a separation or divorce, but it should lead you to being educated on the law and access to the appropriate professional resources.
There are a number of internet search sites, such as Spokeo, that will assist you in finding out if your spouse has an internet dating profile by running a search of your spouse’s e-mail address. These sites costs money and may be a good start provided that your spouse is not very clever. If your spouse is clever, he or she may have taken the precaution of buying with cash a disposable smart phone with prepaid minutes and creating a new e-mail account with that unknown, hard to trace number. Once he or she has the new e-mail account, he or she will be able to open a Facebook page and use same to create a profile on Tinder, Bumble, Grinder, etc.
An initial consultation with a qualified family law attorney will more than likely cost you between $250 and $500 depending upon the attorney’s experience and the nature of the case; however, when you are considering that the well-being and financial future of you and your children, and that thousands to millions of dollars of marital assets are at issue, spending an initial consultation fee to get your ducks in a row is very wise.