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Can emails, posts and texts be used as evidence in family court?

On Behalf of | Apr 19, 2021 | Family Law |

Yes, as long as they are relevant, authentic and representative. You and your lawyer can collect electronic media evidence like this by taking screen shots, using text extractors, or tools that are specially created to extract and save media.

This kind of evidence may be important in your divorce, parenting or support case. For example, you may find evidence in your ex’s social media postings that they have more income or fewer expenses than they have claimed. Or, text messages may show that your ex had possession of the children on a particular date. You could find emails that indicate your ex is threatening or abusive.

In any of those scenarios, the electronic evidence must be relevant to the proceedings. That is to say, it must matter to the outcome of your case. Whether a particular text, email or social media post is relevant in your case depends on what you’re trying to prove.

In addition to meeting the baseline requirement of being relevant, your evidence must also be authentic. This basically means that you can prove your ex sent the email or text or posted the social media post. A time and date stamp is important, along with something showing your ex was responsible for the evidence. Ideally, your evidence would have the author’s name pictured or extracted.

Part of being authentic is being accurate and fair. In other words, the evidence must be gathered carefully to show both sides with nothing edited or deleted. This means exposing your own responses, even if you were angry and now wish you had responded differently.

Not everything meaningful to you is relevant to your case

It can be tempting to try to show the court that your ex is behaving badly. Unless you are actively trying to prove something specific, however, such as that your ex is an unfit parent, it is unlikely that the court will take much notice of that bad behavior.

Unfortunately, one parent’s poor behavior that doesn’t rise to the level of abuse or neglect is not relevant in most proceedings. If you want to use electronic evidence to prove something against your ex, you should discuss the situation with your family law attorney.

How to save electronic evidence

One of the easiest ways to gather electronic evidence is through a screen shot. This is relatively easy to do and will usually be sufficient as long as you capture the date and author’s name.

Sometimes, screen shots won’t work because you’ve got too much to save. For example, you might want to introduce an entire text conversation into evidence, and that could take so many screen shots that the result is hard to follow.

When a screen shot isn’t going to work, you can try other methods such as text extractors. These are usually apps or programs for your phone or computer that extract a given set of information and download it into a single file. Some common text extractors include EaseUS MobiMover, TouchCopy, Decipher Tools and iMazing.

Note that it can be a real challenge to get messages off of iPhones. If you have the right connector, you can connect your iPhone to a computer and back it up. This gives you access to the files you have saved.

It’s relatively easy to extract text from Android devices by using a free app called SMS Backup & Restore. The app can back up all your text messages and save them into a file that can be exported or uploaded to a computer. Likewise, a backup of your phone can allow you to extract and export screen shots, which are usually saved in your photo files.

The best advice is to talk to your attorney about what you want to prove and what proof you have. Your lawyer can advise you on whether to use a screen shot, text extractor or backup app to obtain usable, dated, attributed versions of the evidence – or whether to leave the evidence collection to an expert.