In a significant shift for Texas family law, the 2023 legislature passed a new law that strengthens spousal privacy rights. This legislation, incorporated into the Texas Family Code, specifically addresses the use of electronic tracking devices and physical following in divorce and child custody cases. Here’s a breakdown of what this new law means for you:

What Does the Law Prohibit?

The core principle of the new law revolves around “effective consent.” Simply put, it’s illegal to track your spouse or ex-spouse’s car, personal belongings, or physically follow them without their explicit agreement. This applies to situations involving:

  • GPS trackers: Hidden devices placed on vehicles or personal items to monitor location.
  • Phone monitoring: Accessing a spouse’s phone or online accounts without their permission to track their movements or communications.
  • Social media surveillance: Spying on a spouse’s social media activity without their knowledge.
  • Physical following: Stalking or tailing your spouse or ex-spouse in person.

What is “Effective Consent”?

The new law requires clear and informed consent from your spouse for any form of tracking. A casual “it’s fine” or an assumption of permission won’t suffice. Here are some ways to ensure effective consent:

  • Written consent: A signed document explicitly stating your spouse’s agreement to be tracked.
  • Verbal consent: A recorded conversation where your spouse clearly consents to tracking for a specific purpose and duration.

Exceptions to the Rule

While the law protects privacy, there might be exceptions in specific situations. These exceptions are yet to be fully defined by the courts, but could potentially include:

  • Court-ordered tracking: A judge may authorize tracking in specific cases, such as protecting a child’s safety in a custody dispute.
  • Law enforcement investigations: Tracking authorized with a warrant or as part of a criminal investigation.

What Does This Mean for Your Texas Divorce or Custody Case?

This new legislation significantly impacts how evidence is gathered in Texas family law cases. Previously, information obtained through spousal tracking, while ethically questionable, might have been admissible in court. Now, using illegally obtained tracking information could hurt your case, potentially leading to its exclusion as evidence.

What Should You Do?

If you’re considering a divorce or involved in a custody dispute, it’s crucial to understand your rights and limitations regarding electronic tracking. Here’s how a Texas family law attorney can help:

  • Protecting Your Privacy: Your attorney can advise you on your rights and ensure no illegal tracking is used against you.
  • Gathering Evidence: If you suspect your spouse is hiding assets or engaging in behavior detrimental to child custody, your attorney can explore legal methods for gathering evidence.
  • Negotiating a Fair Settlement: The new law strengthens your position in negotiations. Your attorney can leverage this to ensure a fair outcome in your case.

Contact Lundberg Law

Don’t navigate the complexities of Texas family law alone. This new legislation adds another layer to the already intricate legal landscape. Contact our office at 972-775-3500 or schedule a consultation to discuss your specific situation. We can guide you through the legalities of electronic tracking and ensure your rights are protected throughout your divorce or child custody case.

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