Think Before You Text…

Or email, or update your Facebook status, or tweet – because the use of evidence from smart phones and social networking sites in family law matters is on the rise.  The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, a prestigious national association of family law attorneys, released the results of a survey which indicates that 92% of the AAML’s members have seen an increase in the use of evidence from iPhones, Droids, and other smart phones in family law matters in the last three years.  Overall, 94% of AAML members said that they have seen an increase in the use of text messages in particular.

In an interview with Reuters, Ken Altshuler, president of the AMML, notes that the immediacy of text messaging causes some people to fire off angry messages to their ex without thinking about the possible consequences.  As a result,  “spontaneous venting” via text message can be useful evidence of  a family law litigant’s “thoughts, intentions, and actions.” And, because text messages aren’t as easy to reproduce as an email or other written communication, many people wrongly assume that their ex won’t be able to present a nasty text to the court later.

According to the AAML’ s members, other popular types of smart phone evidence and internet include e-mails, internet search histories, and Facebook pages.

Evidence from smart phones and social networking sites is most definitely becoming a popular tool in family law cases – and not without controversy.  Back in November, I wrote about a Connecticut case in which estranged spouses were ordered to swap their respective Facebook passwords so that their attorneys could search for evidence relevant to a nasty custody dispute. There’s a story in the news this week about an Ohio man who was found in contempt of court and ordered to post an apology to his wife on his Facebook page after he wrote a long rant about his contentious divorce on the site.

While some of these cases do raise credible concerns about privacy and free speech rights, the average family law litigant should still heed their inherent warning: be careful what you say on the internet, and in texts and emails, if you’re involved in a litigation with your ex.  Today’s technology makes it all too easy for a slip of the electronic tongue to come back to haunt you.

Stories via Yahoo! News, the AAML, and WBTV.

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