Use of Computer Forensic Experts in Divorce & Family Law
In many family law matters, social media evidence and electronically stored information can become critical in a family law case. For example, financial information regarding income, marital property and debt may all be stored electronically. In other cases, valuable evidence can also be found on social media relative to child custody. For this reason, a party may need to consider hiring a computer forensic expert in their divorce or family law matter.
Below are some of the pros and cons to hiring a computer forensic expert:
The Pros: The advantages of hiring an outside investigator can be numerous. To begin, if well selected, the individual will be a professional at their trade. In terms of e-discovery, this means that the expert may be able to find all sorts of deleted data from financial records to stored emails. Sometimes this information has not even been deleted, it merely requires someone with the right know how to uncover it. Also, there are instances in which hiring a professional forensic computer analyst to examine a computer or hard drive is the only way important evidence can be found. Useful information may come from unexpected sources as even “meta data,” which is really data about data, can provide the “smoking gun.”
Other advantages are that professionals can access and often mirror a computer or device without damaging any of the files or hardware. This is something even an experienced attorney cannot always be certain of. Also, the process is usually pretty quick. A forensic image of a hard drive often only takes four to six hours and a comprehensive report from a forensic examiner usually takes between two to four weeks. Finally, a forensic report can be a very useful way to prove spoliation of evidence.
The Cons: As with anything, hiring an outside investigator has it disadvantages as well. First and most obvious is that the process can be expensive. Often there are charges for the duplication of any device or hard drive, additional charges for any forensic report produced, and yet more fees for the expert to provide testimony at trial. Moreover, there is no guarantee that the expert will find anything. This may be because the party has used sophisticated programs to wipe out data or obscure data such that even an expert cannot identify it. Also, and perhaps commonly, there is the risk that there is simply no incriminating evidence to be found on the device.
Further, it is a good idea to make certain that the individual you are hiring really is an expert. You do not want to damage potentially valuable evidence merely because you hired the first person you found who claimed to be knowledgeable about computers. It is even better if they have some idea of the law and admissibility standards.
Finally, if using an outside investigator to examine computer hardware, you must maintain the chain of custody. An attorney will need to check the local standards, but typically shipping via Fed-Ex with a tracking number will suffice.
If you are going through a divorce or family law matter, and think you might need a computer forensic expert for your case, Stange Law Firm, PC can help you locate one. You can contact us online or call us at 855-805-0595.