text messages

How Text Messages Are Used in the Family Courtroom by Cassandra Hearn

In family law cases, both sides will need to present evidence to the court to support their proposed property, support, and child custody orders.  Evidence may come in a variety of forms, including documentary, testimony, or photographs.  In an increasing number of cases, attorneys are using text messages to shore up their cases. 


It is completely possible to download and print out copies of text messages sent between spouses or parents and use these at a hearing or trial to prove a case.  Depending on the nature of the settings on your phone and the phone of your former spouse or partner, these text messages could span back for months or even years.  Text messages can be used to demonstrate a variety of arguments, including a parent’s refusal to return a child, a spouse’s ability to generate additional income, or a basis for a request for a restraining order.  As long as the text message is sent by one the opposing party, and is a statement against that party’s interest, it may be admissible in court. 


Accordingly, if you have a case pending or you plan to file a case in the future, it would be a good idea to make sure that these text messages are saved to be potentially used later in court.  Although some cell phone providers will save a record of call logs, it is rare to find a provider that saves the actual content of text messages; those carriers that do store the messages only do so for a limited number of months.  This makes subpoenaing text records after-the-fact nearly impossible.  However, there are apps designed to create text messages into PDFs that you can back up to a computer or the cloud.


Producing text messages that are sent from the other party in your case are admissible in court under certain exceptions to the hearsay rule in California.  However, this will not always hold true for text messages sent from someone who is not the other party.  For example, if you want to introduce a text message from your spouse’s new girlfriend, it may be necessary to directly call that girlfriend as a witness. 


With these issues in mind, you should always be mindful about what you put in a text message.  Just as you can use your spouse’s text messages to prove your case, he or she can use your text messages to support his or her case. If you include threats or admissions in your text messages, these statements can be used to undermine your case. 


Issues concerning the admissibility of evidence are complicated and need to be reviewed by an experienced attorney.  We have helped many clients to use text messages and other forms of evidence to prove their case.  Contact us today at 619-800-0384 for an appointment to discuss your case and the evidence we can use to achieve your goals