Are Text Messages Reliable Evidence in Family Court?
Aug. 21, 2020
Digital devices pose new challenges to offering admissible evidence in family court proceedings, including divorce and child support arrangements. They leave a record of communication that can be used against you or in your favor, depending on the situation. At the same time, there is an expectation of privacy regarding messages not related to your specific legal issue.
Whether text messages are being used against you or you want to use the other party’s messages against them in family court, you need a family law attorney up to the challenge of dealing with digital evidence.
For more than 15 years, Allegheny Attorneys at Law has provided knowledgeable legal representation to family law clients in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the surrounding area. I have worked aggressively on behalf of my clients on multiple fronts, including issues related to digital communications that could help or harm their case.
Text Messages Can Be Used in Court
Under Pennsylvania law, text messages can be admissible as evidence in court. Messages can provide evidence of activities including extra-marital relationships, threatening behavior, disregard for children, and more.
While they can be used in court, text messages must be authenticated to be admissible, either by direct evidence, such as testimony of someone with personal knowledge of authorship of the messages, or as circumstantial evidence by:
Identifying the author of messages by using the content of the messages; or,
Providing proof of ownership, possession, control, or access to the messaging device or the account from which the message was sent at the time it was sent. This evidence must be corroborated by circumstances that indicate the author of the message.
If a party admits to being the author of a message, admission of it as evidence is straightforward. But because devices such as cell phones can be accessed by people other than the owner of the phone or the account, the burden of proving authorship without that admission falls on the party who wants to use a text message as evidence in a court of law.
Be Mindful of What YOU Share/Say via Text
Digital footprints are difficult to erase. Even if you delete a message you sent to someone else, that party still has it. And just as you can use the other party’s text messages against them in court, they can use your text messages against you.
Text messages also have a long life, going back years in some cases. They can be used either for or against you when you’re fighting in court for child support or custody, property division, spousal support, and other divorce issues. Photographs, witness testimony, and other documents can support or refute your side of the story. So can text messages.
Whether it’s text messaging, voicemails, email messages, or social media posts, your digital footprint can come back to haunt you. Be careful with what you communicate, particularly to the other party. An admission, denial, or a threat can harm your case, and a contentious divorce provides strong impetus for communicating in the heat of the moment. You can’t take back a text message, so beware.
Working with Allegheny Attorneys at Law
The digital landscape is relatively new in the law, and it continues to evolve. It’s critical that you have a family law attorney on your side who understands this issue, who stays current with the laws regarding admissible digital evidence, and who can use that knowledge to either present that evidence or protect you from it.
At Allegheny Attorneys at Law, I have built a record of aggressive and knowledgeable legal representation in hundreds of family law issues. I’m proud to represent clients in Pittsburgh, Fox Chapel, Penn Hills, Aspinwall, Oakmont Borough, and Shaler, Ross, O’Hara, and Indiana Townships in Pennsylvania.
If you want to use text messages in your family law matter, or if another party is using them against you, call my office today to schedule a consultation.