There is something strange going on in the world of Family Law. When we talk about evidence, lawyers will usually want to know what was said, what was seen and what was written. With modern technology the means by which it was said, seen or spoken is changing. Once upon a time a comment from a client might invoke the cautious nature of the lawyer who might say “you didn’t write that down did you?” A sigh of relief would follow when the client responded “no, no, I would never do that, it was just a thought.”
Where the written form used to apply only to paper and ink, today anything we create electronically can be sent out into the world of the internet, never to be controlled again. In addition, social rules seem to have vanished from our consciousness and people are saying and doing the most shocking things these days
Often under stress people are flooding the internet with the kind of legal evidence that fulfils the dreams of litigation lawyers and stokes the nightmares of everyone else. People are writing things down in a medium that encourages spontaneity, discourages mindfulness but lasts forever for the entire world to see.
In the world of family law we need to stop and take stock. The spontaneous and rapid fire nature of internet communications can have permanent consequences in family law. Yet people seem to be alarmingly unaware of this fact. Spouses are coming under scrutiny for expressing things that should never be said, never mind written. Some couples have taken to breaking up by text message. They will even rub salt in the wounds via Facebook and make aggressive statements through emails.
All of these things become written evidence and are much more difficult to mitigate in a court of law. These off-the-cuff expressions and unfiltered utterances are becoming a matter of public record for all to see into the indefinite future.
Not only are people committing their thoughts into permanent written form in public forums but they are throwing out the social rules as well. These new forms of communication are changing the social rules of old. In fact some may argue that in a frightening way we are seeing a side of human nature we have not seen before. Much of our day to day contact with people now seems to happen with an impersonal distance. But when it comes to Family Law that distance is not real and your uncensored comments will come back to haunt you.
Of the forms of communication I see abused the most, text messaging is currently taking centre stage. Time and time again I have been provided with long streams of text messages between my client and their spouse. The level of abuse people are willing to hurl at each other through text messaging is astounding. Yet I do wonder, are they aware of the damage they are doing to the relationships not only with their spouse but also with their children? Text messages work well for short non emotive communication and in truth that should be their limit. If you need to have difficult conversations do not use text messages. If you need to have a difficult conversation and simply don’t know how to, then find out. There are many professionals who can assist you with these tasks, from counsellors, negotiation coaches, mediators and collaborative practitioners. But for goodness sake don’t just wing it on text message because you don’t know what else to do.
Before you are dazzled by the world of technology and fall into the trap of acting outside social rules think again. In fact before you say anything, get some legal advice because when it comes to family law, you will be held socially and legally accountable and your actions will have consequences on your immediate and long term future. And here’s a thought to consider, what do you want your children to see when they Google you in the future?