Three Ways to Make Text Messages Useful in Custody Cases

You have hundreds of text messages between you and the other parent. You hand them all over to your lawyer, expecting the lawyer to be ecstatic that you can show every cancellation of parenting time, refusal to take the child to the doctor when sick, and general uncooperativeness. Yet, after pouring through them the attorney looks up and advises that they probably will not make a big difference in the ultimate disposition of your custody case. “Why?” you ask with some bewilderment. How can this possibly be? It’s all right there, message after message. The answer generally falls into three categories:

  1. The lack of date and time stamps. While your text messages may go on for printed pages, the screen shots often lack a date and time stamp. Make sure to print out all the text messages for that day so it clearly shows the date and time.
  2. Limit the number. Hundreds of text messages (just like a stack of e-mails) are not going to be read by the judge. Make the most impact not by the sheer quantity of messages, but instead by choosing a few that prove the point you are trying to make. A few well-chosen text messages will be more effective than submitting pages of screenshots that require the judge to go through them to try and understand the point you are making.
  3. Keep the string of text messages intact. A common problem is the failure to include all the text messages within the conversation. While it is important to limit the number of messages you want the court to read, you also do not want to leave a message out. Otherwise, it will look as if you are only telling a part of the story.

Following the above steps will help insure that the text messages you want to use in your case will actually be admitted into evidence and read by the judge.

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Three Ways to Ensure Text Messages Are Relevant in Custody Cases

About the Author:

Marlene Pontrelli is a Member in our Phoenix office and co-chair of the firm’s Family Law Practice. Marlene is a certified specialist in family law. Her practice focuses on all aspects of family law including dissolution, post-dissolution, paternity, child custody and child support matters. She is admitted to practice in California and Arizona. She is a judge pro tem for the Superior Court of Maricopa County in family law. She has extensive trial and appellate experience including appearing before the Arizona Court of Appeals, Arizona Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

 Ms. Pontrelli has written several books, including as a co-author of the Divorce in Arizona book. She is a frequent lecturer in the area of family law and has conducted workshops throughout the country. Ms. Pontrelli is also an adjunct professor at The Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law at Arizona State University, where she teaches the family law class. Marlene may be reached in our Phoenix office at 602-285-5081.