Be careful what you text if you're heading for divorce

Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:02am EST
 
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By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Couples who may be heading for a nasty break-up should be careful about texting because it could end up as evidence against them in divorce court.

More than 90 percent of America's top divorce attorneys said they have seen a spike in the number of cases using evidence from iPhones and other smartphones in the past three years, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML).

The rise in texting evidence follows a similar trend two years ago when the AAML, a professional group of 1,600 members who handle prenuptial agreements, legal separations, annulments, custody battles, property divisions and the rights of unmarried couples, noticed a surge in evidence from Facebook pages.

"With emails you can think about and rewrite them. There is a window of opportunity to rethink what you are saying but text messaging is immediate," said Ken Altshuler, the president of the AAML. "We get a lot of text messages that people send out without thinking."

He described texts as "spontaneous venting" that can come back to haunt people because they are written records of someone's thoughts, actions and intentions.

Even a text message on a phone overlooked by someone over their shoulder, if the person is credible, can cause problems in divorce hearings.

"I have used text messaging for cross examination," said Altshuler, who has also submitted texts as evidence. "I would say in the last six months there have been a lot of text messages involved in litigation. For whatever reason, people are texting more and not thinking about what they are texting."

Text messaging was the most common form of divorce evidence taken from smartphones, according to the AAML poll, followed by emails, phone numbers, call histories, GPS and Internet search histories.   Continued...