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Social Media and Text Messaging: How Technology Impacts the Evidence in a Family Law Case

In the final part of yesterday’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, the conversation turned to two common modes of modern communication: text messaging and social media. This shift isn’t meant to be taken lightly; human interaction has always been crucial to society. However, the way we communicate has evolved over time. While changes in communication norms are not unusual, the advent of third-party intermediaries like computers and smartphones has significantly changed how we interact with each other. Amidst these changes, a common question arises: is texting considered social media?

That brings us to today’s blog post. What has the impact been on family law cases from the changes in communication that we have seen over the past decade? Whereas even ten years ago, text messaging was not nearly as common as it is today, in 2020, we text our friends and families more than we talk to them on the phone. If I were to take a guess, I would go out on a limb and say that you and I send ten times as many text messages as we do phone calls.

Since text messaging and social media posting are so prevalent, there will likely be a connection between these things and your family law case. With the assistance of an experienced family law practitioner, you can leverage your social media presence against that of your opposing party to accomplish goals within your case. However, if you are not working with an attorney who possesses knowledge of these issues and how to use them to help your case, you are at a significant disadvantage.

Keep your personal information personal- don’t overshare online

Most people overshare information online when using social media, which may come as a surprise to you (or not surprise you at all). Something is comforting about these social media websites that allow us to let our guard down and share information that we ordinarily keep closer to the vest. Being online is funny because we can connect to the entire world from our homes’ safety. We feel so comfortable in our surroundings that the internet takes on a comforting feel to it.

The trouble begins when we start to cozy up to the internet and its social media websites. These are public forums, after all. Would you want to post about your latest night out in the Houston Chronicle? I don’t think so. So why would you like to post something potentially embarrassing on the internet? Anyone with a computer and a little bit of know-how can tap into your online profile and get a pretty good idea regarding what you are all about.

Once a new case is signed up, any competent family law attorney will promptly analyze both your and your opposing party’s social media profiles. This proactive approach enables them to identify potential evidence that can support or challenge either party’s claims. Sometimes, we can learn things about a person that may have slipped our mind or that we felt to be irrelevant when speaking to your lawyer for the first time. If we see something problematic in your case, we can talk about it early on and then do something about the problem before it hurts your case.

Be aware that who you network with online matters.

Whether you’re sharing family photos or snapshots of your outings, it’s crucial to consider your online connections’ impact. While adding someone as a friend may seem trivial, it opens a gateway for sharing personal information and associating your identity with posts. Compromising content or unflattering descriptions can profoundly impact your case if they are involved, underscoring the significance of seemingly minor decisions like friending someone.

The big thing to keep in mind is that you could have blocked your opposing party from viewing the social media profiles you have, but that doesn’t mean that they cannot obtain valuable information about you anyways. For instance, go through your social media profiles and look through all the people you are connected to. Now, think about how many of those you are connected to is also connected to your opposing party, probably more than you are comfortable with.

What you can do about this is take some time and protect yourself by blocking people that have relationships with your opposing party. That doesn’t mean that you have to secure the person forever. It’s just that this is an excellent defensive measure for you to take in conjunction with your family law case. I advise folks to do this because it doesn’t matter how your opposing party gets information about you online unless they have hacked into your social media profiles. If your ex-spouse gets his sister to look up compromising photos of you to use in your child custody modification case, then there is nothing wrong with that from a legal perspective.

What methods do people employ to get social media evidence for a family law case?

While some individuals may indiscriminately share every photo of their children online, it’s crucial to discern the nature of these posts. While images capturing milestones like a child’s first steps are innocuous, many people extend their postings to include less appropriate content. For example, photos featuring alcohol in the background or situations where a child is exposed to inappropriate environments or individuals are common. As you navigate your family law case, being mindful of such online content can be pivotal in safeguarding your child’s well-being and your case’s outcome.

Your spouse’s attorney may request him to search for compromising photos of you online, underscoring the need to reflect on your past online activities. You have control over your social media content, allowing you to manage what is visible. If there are any past actions you regret, address them now. Communicate with friends who frequently post social outing photos, asking not to be tagged in compromising posts.

Here is what your attorney will be doing (and what your spouse’s attorney will be doing to you): logging onto their own social media profiles and conducting simple searches of your spouse’s name. Whatever comes up will be a part of the research that is being conducted. If nothing can be found on social media websites, Google is the next logical place to go. You may as well as Google your name and see what pops up. Odds are it will be pretty benign, but if you find something that puts you in an unfavorable light. Report back to your attorney about what you have found.

Text messages as evidence in Texas family law cases

Let’s jump subjects and talk about how text messages are often used in family law cases in Texas. If you have text messages on your phone that put your spouse in a negative light, you should do your best not delete them. Judging from working with past clients, most of you going through a divorce have photos or text messages of your spouse on your phone that at least make him or she appear to be a horrible person.

These folks have said via text messages that are enough to make your toes curl. I think it has to do with the ease with which you can communicate something. There is no friction between your brain, your fingers, and the keyboard for your phone. In a matter of seconds, you could write and send a text message that paints you in a terrible light. At least in the old days, it took a little more thought and effort to communicate with one another. Those added seconds likely did a great deal to prevent not well-thought-out messages from being sent to other people.

From a technology standpoint, all you would have to do is figure out how to take a “screenshot” of your phone when a specific text message or string of text messages is up on the screen. You can take a screenshot of the text message, save it to your phone and then send it to your attorney. Let your attorney take a look and decide whether or not it is something that can be used in your case.

Why are text messages critical to your family law case?

Text messages are evidence just as much as paper documents can be evidence. You can use text messages to catch your spouse in a lie during a trial or temporary orders hearing. For example, if your attorney asks your spouse if she has ever threatened you and she says no, your attorney can catch her in a lie by introducing a string of text messages that show her making threats towards your safety and well-being. Given the rapidity with which text messages are sent, I deem them a more reliable and trustworthy source of information. We don’t have an opportunity to think about a text message before sending it. We’re more likely to be honest, in other words.

Another way that you can use text messages or social media posts as evidence is to prove that your spouse was at a particular place when he is denying being there. A party where people were doing drugs and engaging in other bad behavior should not be a place for someone with kids. However, if your spouse attends such a party on a weekend when he had your child, it can significantly damage his case. Keep this in mind as you engage socially after your family law case has already begun. It may be wise to keep to yourself and to stay at home during your case.

Conclusion

Is texting considered social media? While the distinction between texting and social media may seem clear-cut at first glance, their integration and overlapping functionalities in today’s digital landscape blur the lines between the two. As society continues to navigate the nuances of modern communication, it becomes increasingly important to understand the legal and social implications of these technological advancements. Whether it’s texting, social media, or any other form of digital interaction, acknowledging their impact and staying informed is essential in adapting to the ever-evolving realm of communication.

How do social media posts and text messages become usable evidence? Find out tomorrow

Today’s blog post talked about text messages and social media posts and how they can impact your family law case. All of this discussion is theoretical unless you can obtain evidence and have it admitted into the record of your case. That is what we will talk about tomorrow when we pick up where we left off today.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about the material that we covered in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week here in our office. These consultations are an excellent opportunity to ask questions and receive direct feedback about your case. We pride ourselves on representing clients to the best of our ability and firmly believe that the successes we achieve across the family courts of southeast Texas surpass those achieved elsewhere.

  1. Challenges Faced in Admitting Digital Evidence Exhibits in Legal Cases
  2. Protecting Your Identity in the Digital Age: Top Strategies
  3. The Role of Evidence in Court Hearings: A Deep Dive into Legal Proceedings
  4. Social media evidence can influence divorce negotiations
  5. Attorneys Collect Evidence from social media for Use in Family Law Cases
  6. Divorce Mediation FAQs
  7. Social media can be a helpful tool in your divorce
  8. Technology, social media and cell phones: Divorce with children in the 21st century
  9. How the combination of an experienced family law attorney and mediator can cause your divorce to resolve quickly
  10. Social media best practices during a divorce: Consider the risks
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