Email between spouses (or former spouses), and even text messages, often serve as valuable evidence in family law cases. This form of communication can be used to bolster either spouse’s case. We have been on both sides of this situation, and have learned a few things along the way. Below, please find our four tips for people who communicate with their spouse electronically and may be facing litigation in the future:
- Abide By the 24-Hour Rule – We all know the cathartic feeling we get after writing a particularly scathing email to a deserving recipient. It feels good to type out exactly what you think the recipient did wrong and how incredibly right you were. That said, after typing a cathartic email, wait 24 hours. After the wait, read the email and see if it will serve your best interests should the email appear before the court, or opposing counsel. If not, don’t send it.
- Assume the Judge Will See All Electronic Communication – When you do decide to send an email to your (former) spouse, assume that the judge or opposing counsel will see everything you write.
- Leave Out the Pejoratives – While your spouse might deserve to be called a mean name, it is likely that using this form of communication will hurt you more than your spouse, should your case go to court. The court will not look kindly on you calling your former spouse bad names.
- Confirm it in Writing – While our other suggestions encourage you to limit your online communication, this suggestion encourages you to increase your electronic communication in certain circumstances. Those circumstances include times that a spouse does something that s/he will later deny, but that you will want the court to have evidence of (for example, if a spouse admits that they quit their job because they think not working will reduce their child support obligation, or if they are late picking up the children from school or for a visit, or if they recklessly waste community assets). In any of these cases (and others) it is often wise to type an email of the facts (again no pejoratives – see suggestion three) and send it to the offending spouse. With luck, the spouse may respond in a fashion that provides an admission that they did act inappropriately.
If you have questions about your electronic communication with your spouse and how it can be used for or against you in your family law case, please contact a family law attorney for legal advice.