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Electric devices are new weapons in custody wars

Divorced parents sometimes try to mine damaging information about ex-spouses from the couples' shared children. Children's revelations about improper adult behaviors can lead to court alterations in a child custody agreement.

Some parents caught up in child custody disputes have added high-tech ammunition to their arsenals. It is no longer unusual for children to be carriers of secretly-hidden devices to track and record an ex-spouse's conversations and actions.

A survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that couples are increasingly employing electronic technology to influence divorce cases. More than 80 percent of respondents reported upticks in the use of GPS devices and hidden video or audio recorders in divorce cases.

Analysts say the ease of use and relative low costs of electronic devices have encouraged disputing parents to turn into digital spies. A child's story of an ex-spouse's unsavory conversations or deeds might not be as accurate as a hidden recorder.

A Texas parent recently hid a microphone in her child's clothing to snag the audio of an ex-spouse. Another parent stitched an audio recorder into a daughter's teddy bear and downloaded an ex's conversations from a weekend visitation.

A court banned the teddy bear tapes from court and charged the spying spouse with breaking federal wiretapping laws. She was fined $10,000.

The acts of surreptitiously tracking or recording a former spouse's voice and behaviors stand on shaky legal ground. Some states rule the actions are illegal, in line with federal wiretapping rules. Family law judges in other states accept the secret material despite federal guidelines.

Children are the ones with the most to lose in the controversy. Seeing parents use deception to spy on one another to gain a custody advantage offers zero benefit to the children caught in a legal tug of war.

Source: ABC News, "Spouses Use Spy Tools to Get Custody of Children," Jim Avila and Ben Forer, May 3, 2012

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