Are Text Messages Reliable Evidence in Family Court?
Nov. 17, 2022
Anyone who’s been through a messy custody battle or disagreement about asset division while going through a divorce knows what a long and difficult road it is. Of course, each parent wants to fight for their rights to spend quality time with their children or for the wealth they’ve worked so hard to achieve, but there are cases when a claim could be made by one partner that could affect the child support arrangement or division of assets.
In these cases, you’ll need to bring forth substantial evidence against your ex-spouse, and one way to do this is by using text messages. However, because each case is unique, you should never count on this as your only line of defense and you should always work with a family law attorney who supports not only your rights but your Christian values as well. If you’re in the Fort Worth, Texas, area or anywhere throughout Johnson County or Tarrant County, contact Kim Hamilton Attorney at Law for legal representation you can trust.
Can a Text Message Be Used in Family Court?
In our digital time, it can seem like the bulk of our communication with one another happens less with face-to-face conversations or phone calls and more and more through text messages. And, it’s often the case that these text messages can include pertinent information that speaks to the character or actions of your spouse or co-parent. When this is the case, you’ll need to know under what circumstances can a text message be used as evidence.
It is legal in Texas to use a text message in a family court, but you must ensure it’s what’s known as “admissible evidence.” Generally, this means that a text message (just like any other piece of evidence) must meet the rules of authentication. You must first prove that the text message was actually sent by the person you allege since it’s very easy for cell phones to be stolen and used by others in an effort to discredit someone’s character.
It’s not enough to simply show a screenshot of the text message without also providing context or supporting documentation. This typically means that you corroborate the text through other witness testimony and circumstantial evidence. You must also ensure that you’ve obtained any electronic records legally and are not in any violation of privacy laws that could protect an individual's text correspondence.
Lastly, the issue of relevance will come into play. For example, if you are trying to gain full custody of your children and you present a text message that implies your spouse has been cheating on you, a court will likely dismiss this as irrelevant.
This is because Texas is a no-fault state for divorce, meaning you don’t have to have grounds (like adultery) for filing. A judge will also likely say that a spouse's extramarital affair has little to do with how good a parent they are and have been. However, if the affair resulted in one spouse neglecting their responsibilities as a parent, this could be used as an argument that the other parent would provide a more stable home for their child.
Messages From a Third Party
When the subject of text messages comes up, clients inevitably want to know if they’re able to use a text from a third party as part of their defense. In general, only texts between the two parties (the two who are getting a divorce) will be admissible and a third-party text may fall under the category of “hearsay.” For instance, if you receive a text message from your neighbor saying they saw your spouse with another person, a judge will often dismiss this. However, if that same neighbor agrees to testify in court under oath, this dismissal may be reconsidered.
Be Mindful of What You Text
Importantly, the use of text messages in a family court can go both ways. If you’re sharing text messages sent by your ex-spouse with your lawyer, chances are that your ex-spouse is also sharing your text messages with their lawyer. While you should always be mindful of what you say and share via text, this becomes crucially important if you’re in the middle of a divorce. Anything you text to your ex-spouse at this point has the potential to be used against you. Do not incriminate yourself or use any language that could be misconstrued and used to discredit you.
Look to a Knowledgeable Attorney for Help
If you’re looking for an experienced divorce attorney in Texas who shares your morals and will approach every case with the same Christian values that you hold in your own home, call Kim Hamilton Attorney at Law to schedule an appointment today. Attorney Kim Hamilton has been helping clients in the Fort Worth, Texas, area for over three decades, and he can help you, too.