Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Don't Let Your Words Come Back to Haunt You

This post could be called "Think Before You Hang Yourself" or "Pause Before You Put Your Foot in Your Mouth." Peggy Roston, who writes the Alaska Divorce Blog, recently had an excellent post on a topic that seems to need repeating frequently -- the damage your statements, written or oral, can make. She talks about custody cases, but it is also true in just property cases or where there are non-custody kid issues. Judges have a lot discretion in making decisions. When you leave written or recorded evidence that puts you in a bad light, that can hurt you when the judge has to choose between your request and your spouse's request.

You may also have a spouse or ex-spouse who somehow always manages to appear or sound nicer than he or she is in real life. Unfortunately, the judge bases a decision on the evidence brought in before him or her. You want to be sure to avoid creating unflattering evidence about yourself. Here's what Peggy wrote:

"If you are involved in a custody case, you should assume that each text message and email you send to your spouse and each voice message you leave for your spouse will find its way into the file of your spouse’s attorney. If your case goes to trial, you can expect to see text messages, emails, and transcripts of voice messages marked as trial exhibits and used against you at trial. Likewise, your attorney will certainly use damaging text messages, emails and transcripts against your spouse at trial.

"So do yourself and your attorney a favor. Before you hit the send button, you should pause for a second and read over what you have just written to your spouse. Does your email/text message make accusations against your spouse? If so, you had better delete those accusations. Does your email/text message disparage, blame or belittle your spouse? If so, take the negative comments out of the email.

"Sending derisive emails or text messages might make you feel better for the moment. But they can seriously damage your custody case if they become evidence that you are not capable of promoting a good relationship between your children and the other parent."

Keep in mind that the judge will probably not have the whole context available when viewing or hearing derogatory messages. The other attorney will certainly try to use your words against you. Think, before you write or talk. You'll benefit in the long run.

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