After a Dubai man texted his wife, "You are divorced," the couple approached the court to ask whether the order had become a reality. Under Islamic Sharia law, in certain conditions, a man can divorce his wife by saying the words "I divorce you" three times, verbally or written. If he says it twice, he can reverse his decision within three months. Though the man in question soon after changed his decision and the couple seem to remain together, the divorce was deemed valid, the first via mobile phone registered in the United Arab Emirates.
Though this is perhaps an unusual case, and the validity of divorce via text under Sharia law is debated by many, it cannot be denied that the ubiquity of SMS is affecting not only marriage but divorce. As a primary mode of communication that more and more cell phone owners are growing to prefer, texting is an essential line of communication for many couples. While this offers great ease and convenience most of the time, it may have some less savory consequences when marriages go sour.
Technology has made garnering evidence for use in a court of law a much easier feat in recent years. Between electronic communication that creates easily accessible records of each contact, and devices that can record communication at a moment's notice, gathering and preserving conversations that may be used against someone is at our fingertips.
Texting plays a unique role in this problem. Because text messaging is so much less filtered than other modes of communication, being more informal, private, and immediate, one is more likely to vent via text in a moment of heightened upset, or say something they don't mean, or otherwise mistype or use phrasing that could get them in trouble. And once a text is received, it is at the recipient's disposal.
This may sound like elaborate paranoia, but text messages are playing an increasingly important role in divorce courts. In the right lawyer's hands, many a text gone awry can be, and has been, used against a spouse.
There are a number of ways texts have been used in divorce court. Harsh words and even half-hearted threats sent in anger have been used against spouses in divorce court. Defendants who have been unfaithful to their spouses have also been outed to the judge through the use of text messages to their side partners. And, of course, lies told in court can be exposed if the one telling the lie has ever sent a contradicting text message. This tactic has been used to set information straight and also to undercut the credibility of a defendant.
Though text messages are a powerful form of evidence in divorce court, some stipulations come along with using media like SMS in court. Because text messaging is a relatively new form of communication, and is not as simple to present to the court as something like printing an email, anyone using text messages must be careful how they are acquired and presented to the judge.
Additionally, some legal concerns arise when it comes to accessing text messages. Hacking into someone's device or accounts in order to access text message evidence can often render that evidence moot. Further, if texts were sent on non-personal devices such as a company phone, a spouse seeking to use them in court may not be legally allowed to access them from that phone.
It seems in all situations regarding texts, the best approach is to be careful. That texting is such a comfortable and accessible medium is part of what makes SMS great, but it is advisable, as with all things, to be cautious not to become too comfortable.
About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage,
Inc. a software company for communication software solutions.