News of high net worth couples divorcing comes in waves. The larger the estate, the stranger the crimes between warring divorce litigants. One particular method favored among the wealthy is surveillance of the other spouse.

For example, legal phone monitoring via a single party agreement law that exists in some states becomes a federal wiretapping offense in states or under circumstances where no implied agreement exists except when expressly granted.

Two areas of greatest contention

Many acrimonious legal battles swirl around two issues: wealth and child custody. Interestingly, the two subjects where divorce can become all-out war are also two of the more amenable areas to surveillance or spying.

Stalking—whether in person, online or via other digital activity–is another way divorcing couples look for bad behavior, creating a trifecta of discovery in a DIY society. On behalf of a divorce client, an attorney can request that the court orders legal surveillance when his or her client suspects the other spouse of hiding assets—or engaging in some unsavory behavior that would make the person a poor parental model.

Courts can also order forensic accountants to examine the extensive properties, trusts, stocks, business ventures and other affairs tied up in high asset marital dissolutions. A forensic accountant focuses precisely on this type of work: the accounting professional, who is a CPA with additional CIA-worthy training in forensics, knows all the tricks of offshore accounts and shell companies. The forensic accountant may even inspect children’s plush toys for hidden jewelry. With significant assets on the table, divorcing couples will go all lengths. They may hide wealth from valuation when the court divides marital assets.

DYI surveillance can backfire

Spouses who suspect their partners of hiding assets or who want to catch the person misbehaving and accordingly forfeit child custody should never undertake these activities. They should not hire a private investigator or bug the house, install tracking software on digital devices or plant cameras in the family vehicle.

Judges do not look fondly on those who attempt to skew the court’s favor toward themselves by these invasion-of-privacy tactics. Irritated judges will award custody away from the parental spy or punish a snooping spouse by granting a significant increase in marital assets to the spy’s target. Stalking is punishable in the state of New Jersey by a significant number of years in jail.