Stop and think about your cell phone for a moment. The data, pictures, apps full of communication history. It contains a vast wealth of knowledge about you. Information about what you’ve purchased, pictures of people you were with, and places you’ve been. Even records of your lists, thought, notes, and conversations. Probably far more than you even realize.
Now think about a divorce proceeding. About husbands and wives trying to prove that the other one is guilty of something that warrants a larger spousal support payment. Or something that makes them an unfit parent who shouldn’t have custody of their children. You get the picture….
Cell phone forensics are a fast growing aspect of divorce cases these days. According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, about 97% of their members have seen a significant increase in the quantity of smartphone evidence used in divorce cases in recent years. And that includes other wireless devices as well, so your tablet isn’t any safer.
There is an overwhelming amount of information that can be harvested from your smartphone. A great deal of it is information you wouldn’t have second thoughts about in day to day life. Things like your GPS, which keeps an extensive record of everywhere you’ve been, and your internet browser history, which records every webpage you ever visited on your phone. Oh, and your pictures. Enough said.
Text messages are probably the most common source for data that can be used in a divorce case. But your emails, your call history, and your contacts list are available for plunder as well… and that’s not to mention your apps. Most people nowadays have a multitude of apps on their phones, providing a rich history of communications with others and personal information. Snapchat, Tinder, Twitter, Google Maps, Facebook… if it’s linked to your phone, or leaves a digital trail of any kind, it’s fair game.
So how do you protect yourself?
In this digital world, most of us can hardly go a day without using our phones. Getting directions, checking email, taking pictures, looking something up online, we use them for everything. But here’s the thing….if you want to come out of your divorce without your spouse’s divorce team tearing you to shreds over the contents of your phone, you need to be very careful. VERY careful. We cannot stress this enough.
Do not, under any circumstances, post disparaging things about your spouse on Facebook or Twitter. Do not text back and forth with your friends about how much fun you’re going to have once you’ve moved out and no longer have to live under your spouse’s watchful eye. Do not, for the love of all things sacred, use your phone to conduct an affair or flirt with people who are not your spouse.
The safest way to operate, if you know that your marriage is going down the tubes, is to expect that every single thing you do and say and read and write and photograph (seriously!) will be picked apart by your spouse’s divorce attorney. Everything. That may not be the case, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. So keep that in mind while venting your spleen about how annoyed you are at your spouse to a friend or co-worker. Or while trolling online dating websites.
On the flip side, if you know that your spouse is having an affair behind your back, or bad mouthing you to their friends on social media, then pay attention. You will need to mention that to your attorney, who can promptly subpoena cell phone records and use the results to help your case. Cell phone forensics on your side.
According to Brandy Thompson, who has years of experience in family law, the best advice is to avoid social media altogether. “But if that is not a possibility, I advise that before you post/text/photograph etc., think about the fact that it may end up before the Judge on your case. Context and inflection are extremely hard to determine from text messages and pictures, even if something is in fact innocent, it could appear otherwise to the Judge.”
Divorce cases can be very complex. There are many factors that come into play when a couple parts ways, and many things that could positively or negatively influence the outcome. So if you or a loved one are considering divorce, start the process on the right foot by talking to us first. Our highly skilled family law attorneys have spent decades representing people from all over Michigan in divorce cases, and working hard to ensure that their futures and interests are protected. We can help you too.