In Space, Everyone Can Hear Your Divorce
Most married couples share bank accounts or at least share account passwords with each other. When in the middle of a divorce, however, whether it is okay to access your estranged spouse’s bank account can be a gray area. Just ask astronaut Anne McClain.
International Space Station (“ISS”) astronaut Anne McClain is an accomplished woman. She graduated from West Point with a degree in engineering and is a lieutenant colonel in the Army. She is the recipient of a Bronze Star, Air Medal, two Army Commendation Medals, two Army Achievement Medals, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and has three Overseas Service Ribbons. She is also a dedicated volunteer and accomplished rugby player.
Space Crime or Revenge?
Sadly, she may be remembered for something much less impressive – being the first NASA astronaut accused of committing a space crime. You see, she is also in the middle of a nasty divorce from her spouse Summer Warden, who she married in 2014. The couple shares custody of Ms. Warden’s biological son.
Ms. Warden alleges that Lt. Col. McClain improperly accessed her bank account while on the ISS. McClain does not deny she accessed the account but claims she was just checking on the couple’s financial status and did nothing wrong.
Ms. Warden disagreed and filed an identity theft complaint against Lt. Col. McClain with the FTC on August 23, 2019. Not only that, Ms. Warden admits that part of the motivation for filing the FTC claim was retaliation. Lt. Col. McClain was awarded visitation rights with her stepson earlier that month. Angry, Ms. Warden told the press “I knew I had to come forward and tell my story because the momentum of the case was not going in the direction we were hoping it would go in according with the law and preserving my rights as a parent.” Did Lt. Col. McClain overstep?
Here on the ground in Collin County, divorcing couples are directly forbidden from “using a password or personal identifying information to gain access to the other party’s email account, bank account, social media account, or any other electronic account” by the Standing Order on Children, Property, & Conduct of Parties (the complete Order can be found here). Denton County has a similar provision in its Standing Order Regarding Children, Property and Conduct of the Parties (complete order here).
Destroying Lt. Col. McClain’s reputation and possibly career seems a bit of an overreaction to her simply looking at a bank account. Her story is a stark reminder to stay far away from any separate accounts that are protected by a password during a divorce. Even if you had free access to an account during the marriage, once a lawsuit has been filed, do not log into your spouse’s separate accounts unless there is a court order specifically giving you permission to do so.
If you have questions about what you can and cannot do while a divorce, modification, or enforcement action is in progress, give us a call at 972.529.2889 or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.