In the days before universal internet usage, divorce litigants typically presented evidence in the forms of witnesses, documents, and cassette/ VHS recordings. Nowadays, the availability of smartphones and mobile operating systems make it possible for us to do just about anything on cell phones, including things that could be used against us in the event of a law suit. Most civil suits, especially divorces, involve evidence that's been stored on a cell phone, or on a cell phone provider's network.
In recent years, the courts have had to lay down specific procedures for the presentation of cell phone stored evidence. Such evidence includes text messages, photos, and posts/ chats from mobile messaging application such as Twitter and Snapchat. Because evidence needs to be preserved for the record, images and messages must be printed out in hard copy form. A hard copy also makes it easier for the judge to have the entire set of images of transcripts at one time. In addition to the relatively small screen of a cell phone, personal pages on social media sites like Facebook are not always easy to navigate. Judges are not be expected to repeatedly swipe and scroll through a mobile device as they attempt to read around ads, banners, and other irrelevant items.
Audio/ visual evidence in the form of voicemails and videos must be put into hard copy form, as well. In these cases, a paper transcript may be enough if it's done through an independent, third-party transcription service. However, it's best to duplicate such evidence onto a CD or DVD, so that all in the involved parties can hear and/or see it for themselves. This is particularly important if the evidence is not of high quality; grainy video footage and voicemails laden with static are common examples. The other party may very well dispute the accuracy of certain statements and recordings, which means that the judge will have to decide who's right after careful examination of the evidence. It's best under these circumstances for the judge to have a CD or DVD that he or she can play as many times as necessary. It is, however, important to preserve everything on your cell phone in order to dispute allegations of alteration or tampering.
While cell phone-based information is one of more complex forms of evidence, the assembly and submission of any type of evidence can be overwhelming for the average person. Improper submission can result in costly delays, which is why it's important to work with an experienced divorce attorney. Another important consideration is the way in which in the evidence was gathered. Even within the same household, each spouse has the right to privacy over personal devices and password protected accounts. Obtaining evidence through illegal or unethical methods may result in serious legal penalties, along with having your case dismissed. For more information on evidence procedures and all your other divorce litigation concerns, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.