In cases involving children, such as divorce and custody cases, the interactions that occur between the parties that concern the children are quite important. The same is true for protective order cases involving domestic violence allegations, whether or not children are involved. Both Iowa and Illinois law instruct judges to consider those interactions and what they would mean for the future of co-parenting, visitation interference, etc. Nowadays, text messages are an important source of evidence to establish those facts. As an example, I have represented clients in cases where it was established through text messages that a parent was not really interested in a child and was only fighting for custody as a means of reducing child support. In other cases, text messages have been helpful to show that an opposing party was trying to harm the relationship between my client and the child. Indeed, I can think of many cases where text messages have been very helpful in court.
Text messages are also of great importance in protective order cases in Illinois and Iowa. Sometimes, a text message will contain a blatant threat of violence or confirmation (implicit or explicit) that violence had occurred. In other cases, the evidence is more subtle but the text message is useful to show that a person was or was not in a particular place at a particular time. In some cases cases, text messages have been instrumental to establish that domestic violence had occurred, entitling the client to a protective order.
For those reasons and more, I recommend that clients take steps to preserve their text messages and help us prepare those messages for use in court. That process, while not terribly difficult, does involve more than just bringing a phone to court on the day of trial, as trying that approach will not work out well. Instead, we work with clients to obtain the text messages, prepare them as exhibits, meet any discovery requirements imposed by the rules of civil procedure, and ensure the messages are properly ready to be authenticated at court.
These days, is rare that a contested divorce, custody, or protective order case in Illinois will not involve electronic evidence such as text messages. Properly handling that evidence is key, and every client is wise to ensure that they and their attorney correctly address the matter.