Whether you're keeping track of family expenses, wanting to find out if your spouse has been faithful or preparing for a divorce case, you may need to examine your spouse's phone records. Getting access to your spouse's phone calls and text messages can be a slippery slope legally, however. Unless you have your spouse's written permission or a subpoena, you could find yourself in hot water if you snoop through his phone. Even if you find clear evidence of an affair -- such as racy texts, images or videos -- on your spouse's phone, that evidence will likely be inadmissible in court if it was obtained illegally.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Call your phone-service provider (or log in to your online billing account) if you have a joint account with your spouse. As an authorised account holder, you may request copies of call detail records -- including text messages -- covering a specific date range. The fastest and easiest method is to simply print out a call detail report from your online account if you have one. Alternatively, your phone company can send a printed copy in the mail, but this process usually takes about 30 days.
If you do not have a joint account with your spouse, proceed to Step 2.
Ask your spouse for permission to get a copy of her phone records. If she will sign a written authorisation form, you may present this form to the phone service provider and request the records be released to you. If you are not on good terms with your spouse, this may not be an option.
Get a subpoena for the phone records if you already have a legal action pending in court. In most cases, phone-service providers will require a subpoena before releasing any customer's phone records to a spouse, unless the spouse is listed on the account or has written authorisation from the account holder.
Call the police immediately if you are being threatened or harassed by your spouse, or if your spouse is using his phone for criminal activities. Law enforcement can obtain a subpoena for phone records quickly, especially in criminal actions where lives may be endangered. Be aware, however, that these records are for law enforcement use only and will not be released to you directly.
Act quickly. Phone service providers generally only store text messages, images and video on their servers for a few days to a few weeks at most. If the evidence you need is important, best not to delay.
Tips and warnings
- Cell-phone carriers can provide you call records showing the number called or texted, the duration of the call and time and date, but these records do not contain the actual content of text messages. Under the Consumer Telephone Records Protection Act of 2006, your cell phone company cannot provide you the content of text messages, even if you are listed on a joint account as a legal owner of the phone. This is to protect the privacy rights of the other party who sent or received the message.
- Resist the temptation to snoop. Unless you routinely share the phone with your spouse or she lets you use it regularly or has given you her password, you could be found liable for damages in an invasion of privacy lawsuit. Breaching your partner's trust by searching through her phone without consent may also bring an end to your relationship for good.
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