How to Use Text Messages as Evidence in Divorce
Text messages are valuable evidence in a lot of cases. We need access to this information all the time, and we often request that our clients provide us with their text message history.
Our client’s husbands also often provide text messages or emails as proof of some contention or another. When that happens, almost without exception, our clients say things like, “That’s not true!” or “That was taken out of context of the larger conversation.” Sometimes, too, if you read just a bit further, you’ll see evidence that contradicts what the person asserted just a few moments before.
After all, I can put that the sky is green in a text message if I want, but that doesn’t make it true. Simply texting someone something doesn’t mean that what you’ve texted (or emailed) is gospel. It isn’t! Still, there’s no question that text and email conversations have a lot of relevance in domestic relations cases. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to read a bajillion text messages. (In one case, I read over 1200 pages of text message conversations!)
But you’ll also have to provide some context, and your text message conversations should include some other critical information – the number of the person you’ve been texting, the date and time of your conversation, and the text of the entire (not the redacted!) conversation.
If you, like so many of our clients, need to provide an entire text message history of conversations between you and your husband or child’s father, don’t just take screen shots! It can be difficult to show the entire conversation (as opposed to just bits and pieces which may or may not tell the entire story), or capture the time and date range. We need ALL of this information in order for this evidence to be valuable. Also, it’s really incredibly annoying and time consuming to read through a text message conversation that has been screenshot into a bunch of different picture images. I’ve had to do it, but it’s frustrating.
Using Text Messages as Evidence
Even if you do capture the entire conversation as well as the time and date range, you’ve probably captured some repeat information. Many people take screenshots, and prove that the conversation is continuous, by showing some overlapping information from one picture to the next. It’s tedious to read, and difficult to use as an exhibit in court.
We also find that our clients are sometimes frustrated after they’ve gathered all those images if we request that they provide it in a different, easier to use, format. To avoid all the frustration and to ensure that we get a good quality product that is helpful in the event that we need to provide evidence, there’s a solution.
Technology has an answer! In order to create a seamless image that spans your conversation from beginning to end, it’s as easy as downloading an app. As far as I’m aware, there are two to choose from at this point (though there may be others that I’m just not aware of).
Stitch It! (For iPhone and Android)
Stitch It! is both iPhone and Android compatible, and is downloadable for free in the iTunes store and on Google Play. It’s pretty easy! You launch the app, and ask it to stitch the necessary photos together. For more than 3 screenshots, you’ll have to upgrade to the pro version for $2.99. You can even use this app to redact any private information that you’d prefer not to share (though check with your attorney before you do this).
Tailor (For iPhone)
Tailor works similarly to Stitch It!, but is only available for iPhone users at this time. It’s a free download in the iTunes store. When you launch the app and give it access to your photos, it will automatically look for sequential screenshots, and stitch them together in one continuous piece. If you upgrade via an in app purchase, you can remove ads and also the watermark at the bottom of your image. Then, once you have a final image, you can email or text it directly to your attorney!
I tried them both myself, and found them super easy to use. I’m a millennial, so I’m fairly tech savvy, but I found that this was easy by almost anybody’s standards. I liked Tailor slightly better because I’m an iPhone user, and I could easily stitch together a long conversation without paying the upcharge. Still, though, the small upcharge is very little compared to what some of my clients have paid to print up physical pictures of their screenshotted images. It’s a small fee, and, if providing this information is important in your case, it’s money very well spent.
Text message and email conversations can be incredibly valuable, and it’s important that you preserve their ability to be used as evidence in your case. Providing a good quality product to your attorney is super helpful, and will ensure that your story gets told effectively and productively.
Technology is great…in some ways. As it relates to being able to stitch your screenshots together and provide a single image file with your entire text history (which, for whatever reason, is something we see a LOT of people struggle with), it’s amazing. In other areas, though, maybe not so much.
If you’re on social media, consider requesting a copy of our free social media report about mistakes women make during divorce and custody cases. If you (like most of the developed world) are on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter, or some other site, you’ll want to know this information.
Have a GoogleHome or Alexa device in your house? Read up on this blog for more information about things you might want to be aware of if you’re facing a divorce or custody case. (Spoiler alert: your husband could be using it to spy on you!)
For more information, or to request an appointment with one of our licensed and experienced divorce and custody attorneys, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.