We have blogged several times about the potential problems that Facebook and other social media sites can have on a divorce. The same potential for problems also applies to the text messages you send. Although it is sometimes difficult to get text messages into evidence (meaning properly in front of a judge), once the text message is in evidence, it could change the outcome of your case!Unlike Facebook and other social media posts, text messages cannot be deleted or recalled. Any text that you send to your spouse, or even to a third party, can end up being used against you in a divorce. With phones now having up to 64 gigabytes of storage, or more, texts from many years ago could end up being presented as evidence to the judge in your divorce case.
• If you threaten to harm your spouse in a text, that may be the basis for a restraining order, or even criminal prosecution.
• If you call your spouse names in texts, the judge could end up with an unfavorable opinion of you.
• If you say one thing in your declaration (such as, “I do not use drugs”) and text something contrary to your spouse or a third party (such as, “I can’t believe how stoned I was at the party”), you will ruin your credibility with the judge.
In a recent story on NPR, Ken Altshuler, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, provided the following tips for keeping your texts out of court, upon which I elaborate:
• Do not text your spouse anything that you would not want a judge to see. This also applies to Facebook and other social media posts, messages or comments, emails, and even voice mail messages. It is always best to assume that any text, anything you write or any voice message you leave for your spouse will end up in front of your judge. Some examples of what not to post, blog or text about can be found here.
• If your spouse or former spouse sends you an inappropriate text, do not respond in kind because a judge will see that. The judge usually does not care who started an inappropriate exchange because the exchange is usually just a small part of the bigger picture. In one of my cases after reviewing hateful emails back and forth between the parties, the judge (slightly misquoting Mercutio’s famous line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Julie), said “A pox on both your houses.” When the other party blurted out, “She started it!” the judge replied, “Sir, two wrongs do not make a right – and your emails back to here were totally inappropriate, no matter who started it.”
• Do not send messages that set your spouse up for an inappropriate or angry response. On the other hand, some Judges will look into who started it. You do not want your judge to find that you were the party that started it, or someone who is baiting the other side. This could ruin your credibility with the judge for the rest of your case.
• If you are worked up and want to send your spouse a message, take time to calm down before putting anything in writing. Again, if it is in writing, you must assume that your judge will eventually read it. If you are unsure about a written response to your spouse, send it to your attorney for review before sending it to your spouse.
Always remember, do not text anything to anyone that you would want the family law judge in your case to see or read.
San Diego Family Law Attorney Nancy J. Bickford is the only certified family law specialist in San Diego who is a CPA and also holds an MBA. Don’t settle for less when determining your rights during a divorce or child custody case. Contact us or call us at 858-793-8884 in La Jolla, Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.