Think before you text: Divorce lawyers warn of the powerful evidence of a simple SMS message or Facebook post
Divorce is never an easy process. But its formalities can be made a lot harder by the seeming informality of a simple text or Facebook post.
Each and every word committed to SMS or social network can be taken as evidence in court, with more acrimonious divorces than ever hinging upon a badly judged text, sent in the heat of the moment.
A new survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers has found that 92 per cent of its 1,600 members reported an increase in the number of cases in the past three years using evidence taken from smartphones.
Step away from the sext: Divorce cases using texts and Facebook posts written in the heat of the moment and used as admissible evidence are on the rise
The findings, published this month, found that a majority of that incriminating smartphone proof came in the form of texts, at 63 per cent, followed by emails at 23 per cent and call histories at 13 per cent.
GPS and internet search histories, while just a small fraction, at one per cent, are even admissable evidence.
94 per cent of the nation's top 1,600 matrimony lawyers said that cases using texts as evidence had increased over the same period.
Writing for Huffington Post, Ken Altshuler, President of the AAML, said that he is unequivocal with clients when it comes to technology and divorce.
'The very first thing I say to every new client is, “Shut down your Facebook account and stop texting immediately.”'
He cites a 2010 study that found that there had been an 81 per cent increase in evidence from social networking sites in the previous five years. 66 per cent of those cases said that their network of choice was Facebook.
The fundamental problem with the medium of text and Facebook, Mr Altshuler said, is that while written 'words are power', in the modern mode of communicating, they are so often written without much foresight.
'Texts are composed at the spur of the
moment, resulting in pieces of evidence that can be raw, uninhibited,
and highly incriminating'
'Unique among other writings that are prone to be drafted and revised, texts are composed at the spur of the moment, resulting in pieces of evidence that can be raw, uninhibited, and highly incriminating.'
They are like a heated conversation, he says, but with a full transcript attached. Images are just as damning.
'Having someone's own specific words, combined with a clearly defined and recorded timeline, provides extremely powerful material for a devastating cross examination,' he writes.
It may be the easiest and most common way for many to communicate – especially, perhaps, for assignations.
But, as Mr Altshuler puts it: 'The bottom line is that any form of communication that a person most regularly engages in will generate the biggest potential for evidence that others can sift through and use against them.'