We live in a wired world where many people are attached to some sort of handheld device nearly 24/7. Text messages, emails, and call histories may feel private to the user, but they leave a digital trail. So how much of it can actually come back to bite you in the course of a Michigan divorce?
The Power of the Digital Trail
The first question is: What do you have to hide? Remember, Michigan is a no-fault divorce state so “technically” there is no one to blame for the dissolution of a marriage. In reality, however, if infidelity did cause the breakdown of the marriage, fault is indeed an issue. And at that point, behavior – including a digital trail – comes into play.
Smartphones are smart for a reason: They provide an often detailed record of what the user was doing, planning, and thinking – and with whom – at any given moment and over any period of time. Though it may seem as though information taken from a cell phone is an invasion of privacy, most divorce proceedings do permit cell phone evidence. And the trend to use this information is increasing.
In a survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 92 percent of attorneys reported a rise in the use of cell phone evidence, while 94 percent of attorneys reported an increase in the use of text messages specifically.
Text Carefully: Those Messages Carry Weight
While for purposes of the Michigan divorce, there is no requirement to prove adultery or fault, text messages and other evidence from a cell phone can be used in other ways. Digital exchanges can be offered up as evidence regarding the disappearance of marital assets, abuse, or other problematic behaviors such as gambling or addiction that led to the marriage’s end.
A court’s opinion can be influenced by one party’s behavior – such as threats against the other part – and how fit or unfit they are for child custody purposes. Custody and visitation could end up being limited if the court believes that certain behaviors evidenced through cell phone information could harm or have a negative effect on the children.
Cell phone evidence showing wastefulness of the assets or use of marital assets to pay for gifts, trips, and the like for a non-marital partner may also impact how marital property and debts are divided.
Practice Safe Texting
As with all matters involving a Michigan divorce, each case is unique, as is the evidence associated with it. Privacy issues may come into play, as well as the legitimacy and accessibility of cell phone records (detailed records of which are typically not kept by cell phone companies). Only your Michigan divorce attorney can advise you best on your questions regarding cell phone usage and how it relates to your case.
Discuss your Macomb County, Michigan, divorce questions with Femminineo Attorneys to learn about your rights, the intricacies of evidence and evidence-gathering, and the divorce process itself. Contact us to schedule your no-cost initial interview.