Should spending habits be used in divorce proceedings?

A recent article got quite a bit of attention when it was reported that some companies, like Target, mine data from consumer’s purchases in order to identify a life cycle event — like a marriage, pregnancy or divorce — in order to change shopping habits and obtain brand loyalty from that consumer. Of course there’s many ethical questions regarding these types of initiatives, but there are also many concerns regarding how these initiatives could end up impacting a divorce proceeding.

For example, let’s say that your soon-to-be ex-wife is battling you in court for child custody. You want either joint or full custody. However, your ex subpoenas your buying records from Target, and the judge assigned to your case grants the discovery order. Before you know it, your shopping habits are being brought into your child custody case.

Now, let’s say that you have been buying two cases of beer every week. There is the possibility that your former spouse could go ahead and use this as leverage to say you have a drinking problem and should therefore not be awarded joint or primary child custody.

However, while in this case the information could be used against a father, in other cases it could possibly be used to his benefit. For example, if your former spouse is asking for alimony, but spending habits show that she has been buying $1,000 worth of clothes every time she goes to Zara, maybe she really isn’t in dire need of that alimony?

As of now, when it comes to companies collecting your purchasing information, there are no laws regarding what those companies can and cannot do with that information. But what do you think? Should consumers be given more protection when it comes to their buying habits? Should this information be allowed as evidence in a divorce proceeding?

Source: The Huffington Post, “Divorce Meets Big Data,” Richard Komaiko, March 2, 2012

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