Social media and divorce: the role of text messages

A case out of Maine is drawing attention to the role of social media in divorce proceedings. The relevant portion of the case involves over 50,000 text messages that were released by U.S. Cellular to a husband who was going through a divorce. The messages involved more than just communications between the wife and another man; they also included confidential information between the woman and her doctors and lawyers. As a result, the move by U.S. Cellular to release these records is receiving a wide amount of criticism.

The criticism may be justified. As more information is made available, it appears the cell company was under no legal obligation to release the information. In fact, according to a Maine Supreme Court justice the move violated federal privacy law.

Role of text messages in divorce cases in the future

Although the text messages mentioned above will likely not be allowed in court, this form of social media will play a significant role in divorce proceedings. Legal professionals are predicting the use of text messages in divorce cases will be the next social media wave within family court. A recent article in Reuters addressed the issue, citing the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML). The AAML likens the surge in text message use during divorce to the wave of information gathered from Facebook posts which appeared court two years ago. This group of legal professionals notes that text messages were the most common form of evidence removed from smartphones, followed by emails.

An article in Huffington Post echoed these predictions, noting written pieces of evidence, like text messages and Facebook posts, serve as powerful mechanisms in proving an individual is dishonest or lacks credibility. Once this is established the court questions the individual's credibility throughout the case.

These forms of communication can show up in court in many forms, such as during cross examination and placed in evidence.

Lessons for those going through or contemplating a divorce

The use of various social media mediums in divorce cases is on the rise. As a result, it is wise to assume anything written may be used against you in court. Avoid incriminating Facebook posts, emails and texts. In addition, the case above provides an example of how the components of a divorce proceeding constantly evolve. Those going through a divorce should contact an experienced divorce attorney to help better ensure a more favorable outcome.