Smartphone and Text Messages Being Used in Divorce CourtMy wife and I are facilitators for a program known as DivorceCare. The intent of the group is to assist those experiencing the ravages that the divorce process can subject them to, including but not limited to the emotional toll and financial changes that they are forced to contend with.  Unfortunately, both my wife and I have been through our own painful divorce actions, so we know the frustration and anger that can develop without the proper support system.

Some of this frustration is, without a doubt, the result of conversations between the duelists that are counterproductive and often downright confrontational.  However, it is still amazing that people who claimed, at one time, to love one another and did (sometimes for up to 30 plus years) can turn into people who seek the total annihilation of the other.

While this probably hasn’t changed since biblical times, emails and text messages introduced in our age of technological advances have introduced additional ways to spread our anger and hate. However, what the participants may not be aware of is that these new means of communications are now admissible as evidence in divorce court.

According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, a recent survey claims that 92% of the 1600 attorneys that responded said that they had seen an increase in admissible technology being deemed acceptable in a court of law. The overall findings from that report found that evidence taken from smartphones not only increased but also that the use of text messages as evidence has also increased by 94%. In addition there was an increase in the use of emails, phone numbers, call histories, and GPS locations as evidence as well.

To personalize my research, I asked the twelve people in our DivorceCare group to comment on what they had experienced in regards to emails, etc. being admissible in their own cases. Their comments were indeed interesting, but without exception they confirmed that this type of communication was not privileged and was therefore admissible in court. In fact, one of our male members who had been dragged back into court some three years after the final decree supposedly made a phone call to his ex-wife, in which she accused him of threatening her because she had filed another suit against him.

Unfortunately, while the conversation itself was not recorded and he denied saying anything even remotely threatening when making the call, his ex-wife was savvy enough to bring in her call log, showing that she had received a call from his phone. Our guy wasn’t as up on things and, because he couldn’t produce refutable proof as to what was said during the call, the judge granted the ex-wife a restraining order against him — thus adding fuel to an already combustible situation.

When I presented this topic to Chris here at LockerGnome stating I wished to write an article covering the use of technology in divorce cases, he asked me a very interesting question. How could one avoid this situation?

  • I believe that if I were going through the divorce process, I would direct all communication through my legal counsel and thus avoid responding to any email or text. It is sad that you would be forced to choose this avenue, but you need to protect yourself.
  • Then I would get a new email address for my friends and family. If money is an issue, accounts can be set up for no charge at Gmail, Yahoo!, MSN, Hotmail, and the like. That would allow me to deactivate  my old email address and hence eliminate any messages that are sent to me from my ex-partner.
  • Next, I would turn off my cellphone (yes,  you will have to continue paying your contract) and buy a disposable contract free or pay as you go phone to use while you are going through the divorce process.
  • Last, I would limit the people you give the new phone number to. If your ex-spouse finds out the new number, dump the payphone and get yourself a new one with a different number — maybe even from a different carrier.

You are probably thinking, with your finances already being pushed to the max, that I must be independently wealthy. Untrue; I understand the financial issues, but I also know how much not taking these precautions can cost  you in a divorce settlement. So, you might then ask, what about the inconvenience to you, your friends, and family. Yes, it will be a royal pain in the rump, but again, isn’t it worth it to protect yourself and the outcome of your impending single status?  Then too, let’s look at what you can hope to gain by following these tips:

  • First, they can keep you from the embarrassment of looking like a horse’s ass because of some wild text message you sent during a time of anger or frustration.
  • They can keep your ex-spouse from getting a judgment in their favor because of some indiscretion you may have committed. Did you realize that the GSP, in your phone, can confirm that you were where you said you were or where your ex said you were?
  • If your text messages are deemed admissible, all text messages are subject to scrutiny —  including those that you may find embarrassing.
  • Additionally, if your new number is not available to anyone, there should be nothing to find through a court order of your phone records. (Another idea to secure your privacy is to use an outside dialer like Google Voice through Wi-Fi).
  • A disposable phone also prohibits any fishing expeditions to nab you in an embarrassing moment. Some exes will stalk their former partners and will try to call when they are with someone else.

Hopefully, my tips will help those of  you who are in the excruciating process of divorce. I know that taking my advice is not like a king’s X, but it could protect you from yourself. Remember, divorce is known to cause otherwise prudent people to lose their self control and to respond to their anger in ways that are foreign to them. It is this possibility — one that results in errors of judgment — that this article is attempting to address so that occurrences can be avoided that could come back to bite you in the butt.

Comments welcome.