It's hard to imagine life without text messaging, e-mail, and social media. They help to make the world a smaller place. But they can also carry significant risks, especially when you find yourself in the middle of a legal proceeding such as a divorce. Firing off an angry e-mail, text, or tweet could have potential consequences in your case. With social media and electronic communications, the name of the game is think before you text.
Communication between spouses can be important evidence in a divorce case. E-mails and text messages can help show a judge or jury the real dynamics of a relationship, and potentially impeach a witness who is on their best behavior because they're in court. These are just a few examples of electronic evidence, which is an emerging area in Texas Family Law.
Once you send text, e-mail, or social media post, it is out of your control. Before sending something, answer a couple questions.
1) What might a judge or jury think of this text/e-mail/post?
2) Do I want to have to explain this to a judge or jury?
3) Do I want this published in the newspaper?
4) Would I want my children to see this?
It's in no one's interest that a message like the one below gets sent and then entered into evidence at trial:
The above comic is from a webcomic called Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. It seems absurd, but it serves as an example: you don't want to be that guy.
There are a lot of parts of a divorce case that are out of a client's control, like court schedules, but e-mails, text messages, and social media posts are definitely within a client's control. Don't commit an unforced error. Think before you text.
Lance Armstrong in his Oprah Winfrey interview has famously admitted that he has been lying for years about his use of performance-enhancing drugs in his career as a cyclist.
More than one client at a hearing in family court has said, “My spouse is lying. S/he is committing perjury. Do something!” What is perjury and how does it relate to a Texas Family Law case?
Perjury is defined in Texas Penal Code roughly as: Perjury: A person commits an offense when he makes a false statement under oath with intent to deceive. Lance Armstrong’s statements in his 2005 deposition shown on the Oprah show were made under oath. What he said last night to Oprah was unsworn. What he said last night is not perjury. What he said in the 2005 deposition may be perjury. To be charged with the crime of perjury, the prosecution of the perjurer must start within two or three years of the date of the perjury. So Lance walks - at least in the legal courts, but not necessarily in the court of public opinion.
What about the lying spouse mentioned above? Everyone when testifying under oath has the duty to tell the truth and can be prosecuted for perjury. The decision to prosecute a perjury case is up to the local county prosecutor. The prosecutor may be overwhelmed with other cases and reluctant to get involved what the prosecutor could perceive as a domestic dispute. The real remedy for perjury in Texas Family Courts is the fact that judges, when they make their ruling in the case, have the ability to “punish” the offender by not granting the relief, or as much relief, as requested by the offending party.
In summary, the “do right” rule remains the same: tell the truth.
A man who donated his sperm so that a lesbian couple could have a child–and with the couple contractually agreeing that he would not ever have to pay child support–has been popped by the State of Kansas for child support, as the mother had applied for welfare. As the sperm donor William Marotta said, “no good deed goes unpunished.”
Marotta may wish he lived in Texas. Texas has a specific provision in the Family Code that states:
“A donor is not a parent of a child conceived by means of assisted reproduction.”
He would not be the father of the child in Texas.
Texas can rightly claim to have the most progressive parentage laws, including the Uniform Parentage Act which contains the above provision. Texas was the first to adopt the act in 2000. The act has since been amended to cover all variations of ARTS, or assisted reproductive technologies.Texas law even covers what happens with an ARTS child in a divorce. Dallas has a number of medical facilities who help people with assisted reproduction. Dallas family law attorneys are useful to help with the gestational agreements and other paperwork that is necessary to properly set forth and register the agreements-- and to avoid William Marotta’s fate in Kansas.
It is best that couples–including gay or lesbian couples- who are considering adding a child to their family should check with a Dallas family law attorney to make sure they understand what they need to do before they get too far in the process. We can help.
The Kansas man's story is here.