I am Getting Divorced. Should I Save Emails and other Communications for my Divorce Case?
When getting divorced, it is not uncommon at all for soon-to-be ex-spouses and parents with a child in common to communicate with one another. Sometimes this communication will take place in person or over the telephone. In other cases, communication will occur using text messaging, e-mail, letters, and/or other similar, tangible forms of communication. Some of these communications may have relevance to your divorce and/or child custody case. For instance, you may receive a communication that:
- The other party wants to adopt your proposed parenting plan for the child;
- The other party agrees to give you certain items of property;
- The other party says he or she will provide you with alimony or spousal support;
- The other party “hates” you or will spread your “dirty laundry” all over town; and/or
- The other party makes threats or harasses you.
If you are in possession of tangible written communications from the other party that fall into any of the above-named categories (or substantially similar categories), you may wonder whether these communications are worth keeping and, if so, how they should be stored and used.
Keep Copies of Communications Pertaining to Relevant Topics
If you are involved in a divorce or child-custody proceeding, you should consider saving any and all written communications if the communication in any way relates to the proceedings. For instance, in a divorce proceeding, any written communication that has to do with division of assets, items of personal property, alimony, income, health insurance, business valuation, appraised value of assets, parenting plans, visitation, and other similar topics should be preserved for later use:
- E-mails: For e-mail communications, print off a copy of the e-mail and store it in a safe space. By keeping a physical copy of the e-mail, you will be protected in the event your computer is damaged or destroyed or you are unable to retrieve your e-mail. In addition, if you need to have a copy of the e-mail admitted into evidence, you will need a physical copy available. When printing out e-mails, be certain that the document includes as much information as possible, including: (1) the e-mail addresses and/or names of the recipient and sender; (2) the date the communication was sent; and (3) the time the communication was sent.
- Text messages / Facebook texts / Instant messaging conversations: Text messages should be preserved digitally and using photographs. Do not delete your phone’s text message, even after you have photographed the messages. This is because you may need the phone that contains the text messages in order to have the text message itself admitted. Like with e-mails, photographs of the text messages should contain as much information as possible, including the number and name of the other party with whom you are texting.
- Written letters: To preserve letters for future use, simply make copies of the letter. Be certain your copies are legible. If the letter is unsigned, save and copy the envelope in which the letter came. In the event there is no recognizable return address on the envelope and the letter is unsigned, you may be able to testify whether you recognize the handwriting. If you are not able to identify the author of the letter, you may not be able to have the letter admitted into evidence at a hearing.
Admitting and using these communications when getting divorced or in child custody proceedings can be helpful in either “locking” the other party into admissions or concessions he or she made, or in providing evidence of traits or characteristics about the other party that may call his or her ability to parent effectively into question.
Be cautious when communicating with the other party as well, as your own statements and communications may be similarly used against you.