Family Law these sorts of issues are never pretty, but in a “supportive relationship” case being able to confirm (or deny) the location of a person can be key to proving its cohabitation element. Although most states do have laws that provide for reduction/termination of alimony if the ex-spouse is cohabiting with the opposite sex in a way that is “in the manner of husband and wife, mutually assuming those rights and duties usually attendant upon the marriage relationship,” what counts as a “supportive relationship” is not always clear.
A common go-to in proving these cases is video surveillance. Unfortunately, while the video can record the two opposite sex cohabiting day-to-day, it is also quite expensive, as you need to prove overnight stays over a long period of time.
Thanks to the commonness of cell phones as main mode of communication, Cell Tower Location data can be a cheaper alternative. Not only that, but it is routinely used in court, so its legality is confirmed. You could be seeking to reduce/terminate alimony of an ex-spouse due to this person being in a supportive relationship, or you could be defending that alimony—either way, Cell Tower Location records can confirm or deny a cohabitation situation.
The Proving Case,
Recently, in a Virginia “supportive relationship” case, an ex-husband paying alimony believed that his ex-wife’s recent boyfriend was living with her. The husband collected video surveillance from an investigator that supported this, alongside testimony by their three children, who lived with the wife.
The ex-husband confronted the wife, and litigation began. The husband knew that his evidence may not be enough to prove a case: the video surveillance only showed specific moments (instead of continuous video over a long-term period) and his three children were minors (hence their testimony possibly being denied in court.) So, the ex-husband figured out a unique way to prove that the boyfriend lived his ex-wife: he subpoenaed the boyfriend to obtain his cell phone records.
The ex-wife’s attorney attempted to object to this, his argument being that the boyfriend was not involved in the case, while at the same time the boyfriend hired an attorney who argued constitutional rights violations. Thankfully, the court threw out both arguments, as they believed that the purpose of discovery, at its core, is far-reaching and allows release of any materials that can be “reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence.”
The court commented during the hearing that these records would be key in determining cohabitation, or disproving it. The ex-husband’s subpoena resulted in 1,000+ pages of cell phone records being released, which he then had analyzed and put into a persuasive demonstration: a graph, so that the court could picture the amount of time the boyfriend spent at the wife’s residence.
Although the video surveillance and testimony from the children ended up being usable, the cell phone records became the crucial cornerstone to the case that revealed the ex-wife and boyfriend as liars. Their credibility being in tatters, the court pressed the two parties to settle. On only its second day of trial, the case ended with a termination of alimony.
Overnight stays are not the only criteria needed to confirm a supportive relationship; they are a key component to confirm/deny. Cell phone records can even the playing field in supportive cases by throwing out the need to rely on the “he said, she said” of witnesses or the random chance of catching them on (expensive) video.
With the cohabitation established, you can proceed to argue that a member of the opposite sex who is living with an ex-spouse is taking up resources of the household and determine the financial benefits of that relationship. Then, the case clicks together into a coherent whole.
Cell Tower Location records are objective evidence, whether you need to prove that an ex-spouse is living with a member of the opposite sex or whether you need to prove the contrary about yourself, and can be very persuasive.
Should you feel that you, or your client’s, case might benefit from an analysis of cell phone records, you should hire an outside consultant who can both work with your office to obtain, analyze, and prepare the documentation for trial, but who can testify in court for you.