We are living in the age of the smart home, where we can use our remote and voice activated devices to control many aspects of our home. Whether it’s the temperature of our home, open our garage doors, change the TV channel, or even tell us when it’s time to purchase more milk, smart home technology can be incredibly exciting and make our lives much easier. However, smart home devices also monitor and record much of what we do and where we are without our even realizing it. Could this affect your family law case?
Many of our smart home devices are activate by a phrase, like “okay Google” or “hey Alexa.” When we say this, the device starts recording. Other devices are activated by the smart home device sensing a presence in a certain area of the house, such as a car approaching a driveway or a person approaching a front door. When these devices start recording in response to these triggers, the recordings are stored for future review.
A recent case in Arizona prompted discussion about whether Amazon can be forced to turn over smart home device information to determine if a recording can shed light on who committed a murder. In that case, the prosecution argued that Amazon Echo recordings would shed light on who committed the murder. Ultimately, Amazon agreed to drop its challenge to the search warrant requesting the company turn over the recordings after the murder suspect agreed to let them do so, so this question remains an unresolved area of the law.
It doesn’t take too much imagination to understand how these kinds of smart home recordings could be useful in family law cases, especially divorce cases. Audio recordings and other data gathered by smart homes could be useful in a variety of ways, such as:
- Catching audio of a spouse cheating
- Catching audio of spousal or child abuse
- Providing a factual record of the way a marital dispute actually occurred
It’s also important to discuss another aspect of smart homes: these devices can be manipulated by domestic abusers to continue to torment their victims. Law enforcement across the country have noticed an increase in abuse victims reporting that they believe their abusers are logging into smart home systems to keep tabs on them even after they have moved out, to “mess with” them by turning systems on or off or messing with the temperature, and other behaviors.
One thing is for certain: technology is changing and developing quickly, and if you are preparing to or currently seeking a divorce you need the services of an experienced family law attorney who is up to speed with smart home technology developments. They will be able to help you determine whether you might be able to use data from this technology to prove your case, or whether there is a chance that your partner may be using these devices to threaten or intimidate you.
At, Blair H. Chan, III, PLLC, we have extensive experience in representing clients seeking a divorce, and we are able to help you assess whether your smart home devices may help or hurt you in your divorce. Contact us today to learn more.