In the Information Age we do everything on our smartphones and computers—from shopping and getting directions to communicating almost 24/7 with our friends, family members, and spouses. With all this constant communication, it’s important to remember that things like text messages and emails can become a permanent part of your divorce case. As a result, everyone who is going through a divorce should be cautious about the communications they use and the information they send in those messages.
The Increase in Smartphone Evidence
A study released in February 2012 by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) showed that 92 percent of divorce lawyers nationwide say they have seen cases that use evidence from smartphones during divorce proceedings. That includes evidence from text messages, emails, phone numbers, call history, and even GPS evidence and internet search history, although the latter two only account for about 1 percent of information used in these cases.
Using Electronic Communication Wisely
One of the great things about mobile devices is the instant access to information, and the ability to connect with virtually anyone at any time day or night. Unfortunately this tendency toward instant communication can also come with a negative side — an instant and reactive response to something your spouse says or does during divorce proceedings. Because of the high level of emotion involved in a divorce, responding instantly to a text, or leaving an angry voicemail message before thinking through your response carefully, can lead to disaster during your court proceedings.
Text messages are the most common form of evidence used in divorce proceedings from smartphones, according to the AAML study, accounting for 62 percent of all information taken from mobile devices. Every electronic communication that you send, whether it’s to your spouse or to friends and family, creates a digital “paper trail” that outlines your thoughts, actions and perhaps even your intentions. These messages can be requested and scrutinized by your spouse’s divorce team, who will meticulously comb through them looking for any shred of evidence that could bolster their case. On the flip side, if your spouse is sending you potentially damaging text messages, be sure to forward them to yourself as emails, and to your divorce attorney so you have a hard copy for your case.
Email Benefits and Pitfalls
One of the great benefits of electronic communication is that it can be delayed, meaning that if you get a nasty email, social media post, or text message from your spouse, you can wait to send a response until you have had time to think through it and choose your words carefully. Of course, if you react instantly, you could do just the opposite and write something in the heat of the moment that you won’t be able to take back. Rapid fire messages can live as permanent evidence. Sometimes the things you say in email are even more vicious than what you would have said in normal conversation because you don’t have to confront the person and say it directly to them. Avoid the pitfalls of email and other electronic communication by forcing yourself to cool off before you answer any messages in writing.
Be Cautious About Social Media
Today you can keep the whole world updated on every minute of your life through social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. You can also leave a digital trail of all your movements through check-ins on platforms like Foursquare. Your status updates, online photo albums, posts, comments, and messages can all be used in court. Another study by AAML showed that social messages are increasingly being used as evidence in court to prove infidelity, alcohol or drug use, or even to question your emotional state.
In a world where access to information is instant and often beneficial, it’s important to remember that every message leaves a mark. Be aware of your digital trail – make sure it’s not something that can be used against you during your divorce.
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