Spouses Use Spy Tools to Get Custody of Children

Image Credit: ABC News

The spy shop has become a new tool in the arsenal for feuding couples calling it quits in America. From phone tracking and GPS, to hidden cameras and microphones, America's divorce lawyers have seen technology play a prominent role in their cases.

More than 80 percent of the nation's top divorce attorneys say they've seen an increase in the role electronic data and social networking sites play in divorces, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

One of the primary reasons is that do-it-yourself snooping has become relatively cheap and easy. Surveillance equipment can cost less than $300. It is simple to mount a microphone in a child's blue jeans, as one Texas mother did, or hide a camera in a child's favorite doll.

"The one thing that's exchanged between the warring parties is the child," said attorney John Kinney. "So, the child becomes, in effect, some sort of Trojan horse."

Duke Lewton has been on the other end of those devices in a vicious battle over his seven-year-old daughter, whose mother rigged her teddy bear with a microphone and told her to carry it at all times.

"[She] removed a few stitches, placed a recording device inside of the little bear's head and then you could access a USB port on the side of the head … and download all of our conversations that we had had through the weekend," Lewton told ABC News.

Lewton's wife was fined $10,000 for violating wiretapping laws and the tapes were thrown out of court. But the law is murky; in 38 states it's legal to secretly record in a public place. Federal wiretapping laws protect the privacy of your cellphone conversation and your computer, but sometimes judges allow it anway.

Leah Wagner lost custody of all five of her children after her spouse recorded her every move. Wagner's husband used at least seven hidden tape recorders in her car and house, including one in a bookcase.

He wanted her to lose her temper and purposefully picked fights, trying to irritate Wagner because he knew the outbursts would be recorded.

"I put on some colorful little tantrums in response to his provoking me," she told ABC News. "I had no idea I was being set up."

The setups make modern divorce technologically treacherous, damaging already frayed feelings whether or not they are admissible in court.