Texting is one of the most popular methods of communication in our technology-driven society. Text messages can be more efficient than a drawn-out phone call and are much easier to respond to than an email. However, a word of caution should be given to those who are going through a divorce. As cellphone technology improves, so does the potential of having what you say in a text message come back to haunt you during your divorce proceedings.
In fact, more than 80 percent of divorce lawyers report an increase in the use of text messages as evidence in court. As Ken Altshuler, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers explained to National Public Radio, “A lot of people will draft a text at the spur of the moment, feeling hot and bothered about something, and off goes the text message.” What they fail to realize is that what they write can become self-incriminating evidence and a powerful way to undermine their own credibility in a divorce case.
Text messages have become useful in cross-examinations and can help circumvent the subjectivity of a “he said, she said” scenario. Take, for example, one custody battle involving a mother who claimed the father’s alcohol abuse prevented him from being a good father. With the backing of his substance abuse counselor, the father convincingly claimed to have been sober for a year. His credibility was shattered, however, when a text message in which he asked his wife to pick up beer on her way home was presented as evidence in court.
Although text messages can prove to be effective courtroom fodder, getting them into court as evidence can be a little tricky. For example, if you’ve stolen a password to access them, they can be ruled inadmissible. Or, if the messages are on a company phone, they could actually be corporate property and by accessing them you may be doing something illegal. For these reasons, it’s usually best to let a lawyer subpoena a spouse’s texts.
Text messaging has become a part of our daily lives and an important tool in communication. It is unlikely that our texting habits will change anytime soon. Consequently, it is important to be aware that what you say in a text can affect the outcome of your divorce. The most appropriate advice for anyone going through a divorce may be this: Don’t write anything you wouldn’t want a judge to see!
Source: National Public Radio, CU In Court: Texts Can Be A Divorce Lawyer’s Dream, Jennifer Ludden, February 23, 2012.