As in every other type of courtroom throughout the land, family court litigants need to present evidence to support their claims. The failure to introduce persuasive evidence is how cases are lost. Unfortunately, it isn't easy to find compelling evidence that is admissible in a court of law.
If you are at a loss of where to begin looking for evidence, try reading the text messages sent between you and your ex. It is within these texts where you might find a "smoking gun."
In family court, text messages are used to win hearings more than any other type of evidence. In my opinion, there is no more powerful piece of evidence than texts. Text messages are live transcripts of what people are thinking and saying to each other in real-time, while they are in the heat of a moment, and when they tend to let down their guard. People often throw caution to the wind when sending emotionally laced text messages. They don't think of how their messages can be used against them in a court of law.
Patterns of abuse emerge, and true personalities surface in text messages, which is why they are instrumental in hearings where domestic abuse is at issue. In many cases, when a party claims to be a domestic abuse victim, the evidence is thin. These types of complaints are often referred to as "he said, she said" cases. However, I have won several cases by simply introducing text messages, even when they were the only piece of evidence we had to offer.
In California, a domestic violence restraining order may be granted when the victim proves the opposing party had engaged in a pattern of abusive and controlling behavior. The number one weapon used by perpetrators to control and abuse victims these days is the text message. Typically, perpetrators send texts demanding to know where the victims are at all times and will send demeaning messages to try and make them submit to their will. I can't think of better proof of a victim's abuse claim than this type of evidence.
Text messages can also be used to prove other types of issues in dispute. For example, texts may be introduced to establish the date of separation. To prove a party had in his or her mind a complete breakdown in the marriage, there must be proof of a party's state of mind. Text messages can help demonstrate expressions made by one of the parties that the marriage was over and, in the alternative, there were attempts to reconcile the relationship.
Quite often, people who have custody disputes ask me what they should do to prove the other party is failing to co-parent. In shared custody arrangements, people often send each other text messages to coordinate the transfer of children from one parent to the other. Texts can also show when a parent arbitrarily cancels visitations to deny access of the children to the other parent.
Another feature that makes text messages so valuable in court is they are easily entered into evidence. Texts, like any form of written communication, must be authenticated. Text messages contain the opposing person's name, phone number, and often their photograph. Victims usually bring their phones into court as backup, making authenticating texts a pretty easy task.
By viewing my client's texts, I can also let them know whether or not they have a strong case. When a client retains my services, I occasionally start off believing they have a strong case and then learn they sent text messages that refute their version of the events. That is why I insist on viewing all text messages related to the date and time any controversy between the parties existed. Looking at only a select set of texts can be a big mistake. Sometimes, people want to show me only a couple of texts. However, until I see the entire conversation, I cannot verify their version of events.
Knowing the power texts have in court, I advise my clients to be careful about what they say to the opposing party in their messages because anything they say can and will be used in court.
I also advise clients to continue preserving all the texts they send and receive from the opposing party. The last thing any family law litigant wants is to erase what might be their smoking gun.