Cyberstalking: A Serious Problem in Divorce
It is now easier than ever to stay in constant contact with friends, family members, and colleagues. However, this can be a blessing and a curse, particularly in emotionally fraught divorce cases. It is not uncommon for one spouse in a divorce to develop an obsession with the other spouse that rises to the level of cyberstalking. This behavior can be incredibly stressful and threatening for its victims and makes the divorce process needlessly more difficult. If you have been a victim of cyberstalking during a divorce, a Stockton family law attorney can help you seek protection.
What Is Cyberstalking?
Checking in on an ex here and there on social media to see what they’re up to is perfectly normal. But cyberstalking goes far beyond simple curiosity. Cyberstalking generally is the use of technology, including social media, email, phone calls, and texts, to harass, bully, and intimidate the victim. It typically involves the following behaviors, among others:
- Posting rude or offensive comments about the victim
- Sending threatening or harassing messages to the victim
- Posting embarrassing information or photographs of the victim
- Posting the victim’s personal identifying information (known as “doxing”)
- Logging into the victim’s online accounts using their username and password
- Calling or texting the victim repeatedly
- Posing as the victim to damage their reputation
- Creating fake accounts to troll the victim’s comments
- Creating fake accounts to circumvent social media blocks or bans
- Surreptitiously installing GPS trackers to follow the victim’s movements
Cyberstalking can be extremely distressing to its victims, as it can easily escalate into physical stalking and lead to violence.
Legal Options for Handling Cyberstalking
There are two primary legal remedies for victims of cyberstalking: restraining orders and criminal charges.
- Restraining orders: Threats and harassment via cyberstalking may be grounds for seeking a domestic violence restraining order, which can prohibit all contact between the perpetrator and victim
- Criminal charges: Cyberstalking is illegal in California. Under California Penal Code 646.9 PC, stalking (including through “electronic communication devices”) occurs when a person willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or harasses another person and makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for their safety. Stalking is punishable by imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of up to $1,000.
Victims of cyberstalking may elect to seek a restraining order, press criminal charges, or both.
Effect of Cyberstalking on Family Law Matters
Cyberstalking committed against a current or former spouse is considered a form of domestic violence. As such, credible allegations of cyberstalking (or a conviction for cyberstalking) can jeopardize the perpetrator’s rights to child custody and visitation, as domestic violence threatens the health, safety, and welfare of children.
Get Help From a Stockton Family Law Attorney
If you are dealing with cyberstalking during your divorce, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible to hold the perpetrator accountable. For more information, please contact a Stockton family law attorney at McKinley, Conger, Jolley & Galarneau by using our online form or calling us at 209-477-8171.