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Family Law Specialist Cara Nuttall on obtaining information in regards to Divorce and Separation

A spouse in the US State of Tennessee was fined £20,000 by a court recently for intercepting her Husband's emails during their Separation/Divorce, in breach of various privacy-style rules. The case goes to show how seriously so called "self-help" is often viewed by courts and that contrary to popular belief; two wrongs do not make a right.

In England, certain forms of self-help within Family Law proceedings used to be overlooked, on the basis that as there is a duty on all parties to engage in full and frank disclosure of all facts and circumstances, if a husband or wife came across information or documentation which showed undisclosed information, it was only right that the court was aware of those 'hidden' facts. In August 2010, the case of Immerman clarified the legal position in regard to self help in Family Law proceedings and effectively made self-help much more dangerous. Information obtained through this route can be disregarded, and a spouse engaged in obtaining information through covert means (breaking locks, utilising spyware etc.) can be the subject of civil or criminal prosecution. Further, in some cases, where this information has been disclosed to that person's Family Law Solicitors, they may have to cease to act.

Given the consequences, self-help, whilst understandably tempting in certain circumstances is often simply not worth the risk and legal advice should always be sought immediately if a person engaged in proceedings comes across documentation which is private to the other and/or before any attempt to locate such information is made.

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