Can a smartphone ruin a divorce settlement?

Information on a smartphone could be used as evidence of fault in a divorce case. Devices should be used carefully during the process.

When spouses meet with their attorneys in Oregon to work out a divorce agreement that they can both live with, they may naturally be suspicious of each other because of the hard feelings that the separation caused. Discovering that one spouse is hiding a new relationship or withholding assets can have a significant impact on the final decree. The way a spouse uses a smartphone may be important to the case.

Usage may be habitual

More than two-thirds of adults in the United States now use smartphones, according to the Pew Research Center, and texting, emails and social media are common interactions with these devices. Some people may be so used to having a constant link to the Internet for work and recreation, it may not occur to them that these activities could create issues in a divorce. However, because this information is usually retrievable, it has become a way for spouses to uncover evidence that has changed the outcomes in many divorces.

Information must not be destroyed

Both spouses are required to submit a financial statement that includes liabilities and assets, and this is considered a legal document for the purposes of property division. According to Fox Business News, hiding information pertaining to finances during the divorce is illegal, and that could extend to deleting posts and emails online, or photos and texts contained on the smartphone itself.

Forbes Magazine notes that communications via cellphone may be subpoenaed for use in court. This includes material that people may believe they have deleted, such as texts, emails and social media posts. Even if the record no longer exists on that device, it could be accessible through the provider for the cellphone account, or on devices or websites that the messages were sent to.

Activities could become evidence

Emails and social media posts may also be used as proof, if there is cause to believe that they include information relevant to the case. For example, a post or email may indicate that a person has acquired new assets or debts. Evidence of a raise or bonus at work, electronic receipts or pictures of a major purchase such as a car or boat could be cause for an investigation of social media, email or texts.

Even when smartphone usage does not indicate illegal behavior, it could cause hard feelings that lead to litigation. Experts recommend that those involved in a divorce proceed with extra caution online, and monitor communications carefully for information that could be damaging in court. Hiring an experienced family law attorney who is familiar with the ways that smartphone use could affect divorce may also make a difference in the case.