Advice

Cyberstalked by the Ex-Spouse Carolyn Woodruff

Dear Carolyn:

My ex-spouse is harassing me with emails and text messages. This ex is saying very mean, nasty things and calling me names. It just won’t stop. I hate to give up my cell phone number and my email address, as it would be quite complicated to change. I feel threatened. It’s like I am being followed all the time. My ex always seems to know where I am. I still have my cell phone from the marriage. Is it possible there is something planted in the phone? What can I do?

 

Carolyn Answers….

The digital revolution and cyber warfare is unfortunately part of the current landscape in divorce cases. Wiretapping, spoofing, key logging, and GPS tracking, along with any other imaginable surveillance goes on in divorce cases, even though much of it may be illegal. The National Security Agency or NSA with its Orwellian methods has set the model for the way some spouses and ex-spouses conduct a divorce case. You, as a person going through a divorce cannot simply say, I am not a tech person; you must be knowledgeable to protect yourself and your privacy. The laws and divorce courts have not totally caught up with cyber warfare. Just think, eight of the nine justices of the US Supreme Court do not even use email on a regular basis. That being said, I have three thoughts for your specific situation.

First, your situation may fall into the category of cyberstalking. Cyberstalking is actually a North Carolina crime under NCGS 14-196.3. Under this statute it is unlawful for a person to use email or a cell phone to “communicate to another repeatedly, whether or not conversation ensures, for the purpose of abusing, annoying, threatening, terrifying, harassing, or embarrassing any person.”  This is a Class 2, misdemeanor.

Second, you also may consider a 50B, as a pattern of continuous harassment can be domestic violence. You would take your evidence of the harassment and go to the courthouse and tell the Clerk of Court that you are interested in a 50B. They will give you forms to fill out, and then you go before a judge who will assess your evidence and decide if a protective order should be entered. Please, please tell the judge how you feel. If you are scared or frightened, please describe this fully, as not doing this might cost you the protection you need. The first order is good for 10 days, and then there is a hearing where your ex can present his side of the matter.  The court will, at this ten day hearing, decide on whether to give you a protective order for up to a year.  If you get the protective order or 50B, you can then simply call the police and your ex will be locked up for contacting you.  The domestic violence laws need to be strengthened in this area of cyberstalking to catch up with the times, but this is a pattern of harassment under the existing law, in my opinion.

Third, there may be some practical things you can do, such as blocking texts or emails. Your phone service and computer service providers may have a solution for blocking. If your ex was ever the administrator on your cell phone account, go to your cell service provider and have your phone checked for this problem.

We do not yet have the Guilford County Family Justice Center, but hopefully it is coming very soon to our community. If we had this Center today, you could discuss your problem with skilled law enforcement and other skilled professionals for one stop shopping relief. Good luck to you.

 

Have a family law question? Ask Carolyn!

Send your questions to Ask Carolyn through our website, on social media, by email at askcarolyn@rhinotimes.com, or mail them to P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro, NC 27427. Please do not put identifying information in your questions.

Note that the answers in “Ask Carolyn” are intended to provide general legal information, and the answers are not specific legal advice for your situation.  The column also uses hypothetical questions.  A subtle fact in your unique case may determine the legal advice you need in your unique case.  Also, please note that you are not creating an attorney-client relationship with Carolyn J. Woodruff by writing or having your question answered by “Ask Carolyn.”

 


This blog is a revised excerpt from Ask Carolyn, available on kindle. 

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