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Texts Can be Problematic for Divorcing Couples

Illinois couples who are involved in contentious divorce proceedings need to be careful about what they do and say, so as not to provide the opposing party with ammunition to use against them. That holds for electronic media communications, too, such as Facebook and e-mail, as many people realize…

What divorcing spouses may not realize is that their text messages can also be a gold mine of information, usable in court. A private investigator for Pinkerton explained that text messages are stored in cell phones, whose memory could include years of messages. An attorney can subpoena the other party’s texts, and a person’s own messages can be used as evidence on that person’s behalf when appropriate. Text messages can be printed out, though many people do not realize this is possible.

The consequences of ill-considered text messages can be severe and can extend beyond the immediate concerns of a divorce. In one case, according to NPR, a husband texted his ex-wife-to-be that he was so angry, he could kill her. The text was adequate evidence to charge him with criminal threatening.

In another case, according to NPR, a mother won a custody battle because of her ex’s dishonesty about his drinking problem. She argued that his ability to parent effectively was affected by his drinking. Although he claimed he didn’t have a drinking habit and hadn’t had a drink in a year, the mother produced a text he’d sent her asking her to pick up beer on the way home.

The use of text messages as evidence in divorce cases is rapidly expanding, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. The AAML reports that 90 percent of top divorce lawyers have observed a recent trend in this direction. People who had been venting about their spouses on Facebook and e-mails may be using texting instead because they foolishly believe it is more private and less likely to get them in trouble.

Divorce attorneys advise clients to follow these guidelines:

  1. Never put in writing, anywhere, anything they would not want a judge to see.
  2. Avoid sending inflammatory messages to their spouses.
  3. Don’t text when angry, but take time to cool off.
  4. Refrain from writing an inappropriate answer to a spouse’s inappropriate text.

Illinois residents going through divorce should find an experienced divorce attorney who can provide personalized advice about using texting and other electronic communications. An attorney’s guidance can help prevent the difficulties unwise texting can cause.