Write Every Email and Text Like it Will be Read by the Court
In today’s digital world, we email and text in place of phone conversations or talking in person. We rarely think about the paper trail that follows these actions. However, emails and text messages are frequently used as evidence in divorce and custody cases. This also includes messages sent through Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, and any other program that allows messages to be sent back and forth.
A few years ago, our team handled a high-conflict divorce. As commonly occurs nowadays, the text conversations between the spouses needed to be submitted to the Court as exhibits for examination. One spouse had saved the other’s contact as a curse word, exemplifying their ill feelings towards them. The spouse did not care to change the name before printing the text messages to submit to the Court. Needless to say, the Court was not happy!
Although you may prefer or need to communicate with your spouse or ex via email or text, we encourage you to write as if the Court will read your conversations—because chances are, they will.
Here are a few tips on how to avoid misrepresenting yourself through text messages and emails:
Remember Your Audience
When sending communications, you are not only writing to your ex, but you are writing to the Court. We suggest that clients write their communications as if they are going to their employer. It should be polite in tone and productive in message. If you want to rehash the past, save that for your therapist, with whom you will have patient confidentiality.
Be Factual and Avoid Subjectivity
In legal proceedings, it is critical to get the facts straight as much as possible. If you reference contradictory moments or events during the time spent with your former partner, it can add unnecessary complications to your case.
If you bring up an event that does not fall in line with the recollection of your former partner, it can quickly devolve into a case of “he said, she said.” While no one is expected to remember every single detail of their time together with their former partner, stick to undisputed facts in your text messages and emails and, for the rest, “agree to disagree”.
Avoid Aggressive Language
Emotions run high during divorce proceedings and custody battles, and it is never a good idea to share your aggression in text messages or emails.
Avoid threatening language and childish name-calling in your texts and emails. The last thing you want is for the Court to make an inaccurate judgment of your character based on things said during your most heated moments. If possible, write your message in draft form, step away from it for an hour or two, and come back to re-read and edit it.
But Always Say What You Mean
The motivation behind submitting texts and emails as supporting evidence varies from case to case. The only true control you have over correspondence with a former partner is how you choose to present yourself.
So, be firm in your messages and your positions. Effective online communication comes down to being straightforward, as opposed to taking a non-committal position. It is sometimes better to respond to an inquiry with, “I need 24 hours to consider,” as opposed to giving a non-committal answer. In custody cases, the ability to make decisions is a consideration.
When in doubt, always remember the old legal adage, “Dance like no one is watching; email like it is being read aloud at your deposition.”
If you have questions about family law, please contact Laurie Wasserman at email@example.com or 410-842-1070. The legal team at Wasserman Family Law is here to help guide and advocate for you.
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