A recent survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers claims that more than 80 percent of their members reported a sharp increase in the use of text messaging as evidence in divorce cases over a three-year period. The advent of smartphones and text messaging in our everyday lives offers a quick, spur of the moment opportunity to express anger and resentment, messages that may come back to haunt us. Missouri residents should be aware that text messages can be used in a divorce proceeding.
Stories abound in how text messages are used in divorce cases to undermine the credibility of one spouse. One example in the report included a husband’s text to a secret lover stating he had a great time in Boston while he was supposedly on a business trip on the other side of the country. Another example of a dangerous text message that ended up in court also resulted in a husband being charged with criminal threatening.
The president of American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers stated that in one case a text message “single-handedly” won a child custody dispute for one client. The case involved a claim of unfit parenting in which one spouse claimed the other parent wasn’t able to take care of the children because of a drinking problem. It was a case of hearsay until a text message entered into evidence ended the case.
Text messages can be taken out of context like anything we say; however, once it is in print, it can be used as evidence by divorce attorneys to argue their case. But it’s not as easy as you think to get a spouse’s text admitted as evidence in your divorce case. If the text in question resides on your own phone that’s one thing, but if you illegally obtained a password to access the messages they are probably not admissible as evidence.
One private investigator suggests it’s a good idea to let a lawyer subpoena a spouse’s text messages to ensure they are admissible. In fact, some states will only admit electronic evidence if it was gathered by a professional. Many divorce attorneys advise their clients to think twice before sending a text, especially if they wouldn’t want it read by a judge.
Source: KBIA 91.3 Mid-Missouri Public Radio, “Temper Your Texts: Divorce Court Makes Use Of Messages,” Jennifer Ludden, Feb. 23, 2012