Text Messages in Divorce – Collecting and Using as Evidence

Text Messages in Divorce

In the virtual world in which we live important information can exist on a variety of electronic devices.  We use smartphones, tablets, PC’s and even smart watches.  All of these locations could contain important information and even evidence in a divorce proceeding.

What kind of device you need to search and from which you should retrieve information depends very much on the type of divorce you may be handling.  Collecting evidence from electronic devices can be expensive and time consuming, so the first step is to identify exactly what you want.

Here are some examples of narrowing your search:  if you are trying to prove allegations of certain conduct (e.g. adultery) you might start with emails and text messages.  These can be found on electronic devices but also can easily be accessed on-line.  Text messages are more difficult because they typically exist only on smart devices.  Since 2010 cell phones were required to provide “location information” to assist with emergency services so ou might also consider retrieving the geo-location information from smart devices.  This can help prove the other party was in a certain location at a certain time.  For example, perhaps a wife was at a known location for drug dealing instead of at a child’s soccer game.

How do you obtain information from a cell phone?  The most common approach is to subpoena the records from the cell phone carrier.  You should also consider SMS (Short Message Service) information that may be available.

There are many other sources of information available on modern devices.  Cell phones are also now WiFi-capable which means they may contain a host of data about which networks are being used.  All of these pieces of information (geo-location, cell tower use, WiFi network usage) build a “map” of where a device and it’s owner have been.

Picture can be of particular importance, not only because they show where the user was and with whom they were interacting, but most modern phones store the longitude and latitude of where pictures were taken in a format called Exif (Exchangable Image File Format).  This may allow verification of the location a picture was taken even without having the actual device that was used to take the picture.

Computers that are “synched” with desktop computers can therefore be a source for geo-location.  When the pictures, emails, and text messages are synched with a home computer much of the information contained on the smart device will be transferred to the PC.

In the end, how does one actually retrieve data from a device.  Several options are available:  if you own the device you may be able to contact the provider and obtain the data you need without a subpoena.  A computer forensics expert may also be a wise choice as these professional may be able to access information using specialized software.

In summary, if you want to collect information from electronic devices be specific, be quick, and use an expert if needed.