Cyberstalking and Divorce: Communication Taken Too Far

After your separation, has communication between you and your spouse broken down?  Are you finding it increasing difficult to communicate and co-parent because of animosity between you and your ex-spouse?  Have you been a victim of harassing text messages and/or emails or have you been accused of excessive communication not related to custodial matters?  Cyberstalking charges can result when daily communication crosses a line into the realm of harassment.

Going through a divorce is an emotional experience.  While some divorces are amicable, when the reason for separation is related to mistreatment (domestic violence, financial abuse, etc.) marital misconduct (adultery, etc.) or child abuse, parties are often not civil.  With social media, e-mail and text messages being the predominant method of communication, resentment can take the form of threatening and harassing posts and messages.   North Carolina cyberstalking laws can protect spouses who are victims of harassment.  Knowing what cyberstalking is can help you remain safe or avoid being charged with what can be a serious criminal offense.

The key provisions of the North Carolina Cyberstalking Statute define as unlawful:

  1. Use in electronic mail or electronic communication any words or language threatening to inflict bodily harm to any person or to that person’s child, sibling, spouse, or dependent, or physical injury to the property of any person, or for the purpose of extorting money or other things of value from any person.
  2. Electronically mail or electronically communicate to another repeatedly, whether or not conversation ensues, for the purpose of abusing, annoying, threatening, terrifying, harassing, or embarrassing any person.
  3. Electronically mail or electronically communicate to another and to knowingly make any false statement concerning death, injury, illness, disfigurement, indecent conduct, or criminal conduct of the person electronically mailed or of any member of the person’s family or household with the intent to abuse, annoy, threaten, terrify, harass, or embarrass.
  4. Knowingly permit an electronic communication device under the person’s control to be used for any purpose prohibited by this section.
  5. Knowingly install, place, or use an electronic tracking device without consent, or cause an electronic tracking device to be installed, placed, or used without consent, to track the location of any person. (with some exceptions beyond the scope of this article)

Communicating threats of bodily injury are obviously illegal acts and are beyond the scope of this article.  You also cannot use a location tracking device to track your spouse on your own. (with few exceptions)

The provision of cyberstalking laws that many run afoul of is subsection 2 which prohibits electronic communication to another “repeatedly, whether or not conversation ensues, for the purpose of abusing, annoying, threatening, terrifying, harassing, or embarrassing any person.”  If your ex texts you excessively for no legitimate reason and the texts are a cause for concern, you may need to take action.  You may be wondering what “excessive” is.  From experience, there is no bright line, but as little as 10+ unsolicited and unwanted texts messages per day can raise a red flag.  In more severe cases, one message can constitute cyberstalking if it contains a threat of bodily injury.

A wide range of conduct is prohibited and it is not entirely clear at what point a string of text messages, with no threat of bodily injury, crosses the line from an argument to a criminal charge.  Even social media posts repeatedly referencing another person with no other purpose but to annoy, harass can result in serious charges.

Harassment takes many forms.  Just because the subject of your email is related to child custody does not give a person permission to repeatedly threaten, terrify or harass a person.  Have you been repeatedly referenced on social media by another person without a legitimate reason?  We can help you sort through your options and make sense of what can be an emotional divorce.

Contact us today to get started moving forward.