The question on whether text messages can be used in a child custody case has been the center stage debate for parents facing the battle. It is important to note that, when one parent presents text messages to the court, the judge will examine the messages together with other evidence and decide whether that is admissible to be used as part of the evidence in the case.
Most states such as Texas take text messages presented in a child custody case seriously. This is due to a number of reasons that we will discuss later on. Since the court wants to protect the best interests of the child, messages by any of the parents may serve as an indicator for suitability to take custody or not.
Why the Courts May Admit the Use of Text Messages
Any parent undergoing a child custody battle is required by the court to provide evidence that they may have against the other parent. This can be used by the court to determine the suitability of the parents and who between them will take full custody of the child or children.
It is also important to note that there are different types of custody, and each state has its laws regarding how the parents, whether a mother or father, should be judged in matters of child custody. Therefore, text messages are just a part of the whole process, and may carry a big weight depending on the nature of the text message.
The courts may, therefore, use the text messages for the following reasons:
- To assess the character of the parent and emotional issues such as anger management among other issues.
- To determine which parent is most suitable to take custody of the child and major decision making.
- To enhance the best interests of the child by understanding which parent cares most and has the interests of the child at heart.
- To question the safety of the child.
- To determine whether there has been issues of abuse or parental alienation or not.
Standards of Acceptability
It is not enough to just print messages and submit them to court as evidence. One must ensure that those messages meet the legal requirements and were obtained legally. Messages that were obtained illegally may not be admitted for use as evidence by the court. These include messages where one parent may have used the child to obtain or copy the messages from the other parent.
The courts generally would dismiss messages that seem to have been acquired illegally or invade the privacy of the other parent. Therefore, it is always wise to consult your attorney on the type of text messages that you have about the other parent, and whether they can be used or not.
When it comes to using text messages, the standards of acceptability would depend on the state. Some states such as Massachusetts would not just admit messages with screenshots bearing the name of the sender. Therefore, for the messages to be considered and perhaps admitted, it must:
- Have clear details of the sender that can be proven to be from the other parent.
- Show time and dates clearly and without ambiguity.
- The exact date and time that the message was received, and the time it was read.
- Have accurate placements of special characters such as Emojis as it was received.
Therefore, as a parent, it is important to understand the privacy laws of your state before deciding on whether to use the text messages that you have against the other parent or not. If those messages were sent directly to you by the other parent, then there is a big chance that those messages will form part of your larger evidence.
If you have obtained the messages in a way that is not legal, such as using your child to siphon messages from the other parent, that then may not be admitted since it is a breach against privacy.
Text Messages Sent to The Child
In most of the states such as New York, it is legal for parents to access the child’s phone and read the text messages. This is when the child is still under the age of 18 years. Therefore, a parent may access the child’s communication with the other parent, and if there is anything suspicious in the communication regarding custody issues, those text messages may be used in a child custody case. It is in the discretion of the judge to decide whether these messages can be admissible as part of the evidence or not.
Preparing Text Messages for A Child Custody Case
As a parent, if you think that the text messages that you have can amount to evidence, it is important to always discuss with your attorney on how to go about the entire process of obtaining all the messages and time stamps that would be admissible in your court.
Before a judge decides on whether to admit messages as part of evidence, he or she must find clarity that the messages were actually received from the spouse. Therefore, it may not be enough just to have the screenshots bearing the name of your ex-spouse, but rather keeping all the details clear and concise.
In addition to that, it is also important to keep the string of the messages as it is so that you may not be taken out of context. Remember, a message that is not complete may be taken out of context and may mean something different from what the other person intended.
You may also highlight the most important messages if the thread is too long since the judge may only want to go through the ones that proves your points.
We can, therefore, say, text messages can be used in a child custody case so long as they are admissible and were obtained in a legal way. Messages that are not from the other parent or read from the child’s conversation with the other parent may be considered hearsay and may not be admitted in the court. However, in most cases, messages can form a crucial part of evidence in child custody cases as we have discussed above.