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Text Messages Not Meant for Your Ex

Text Messages.jpgWhen you have multiple devices that are connected through a cloud-based server, they allow you to access everything on that server, through any of your devices. This is generally the reason most people choose to have access to a cloud-based server to begin with – you will always have the document you need. 

The tricky part is when someone else has one of your devices, and also, has access to everything you have. One particular nightmare a lot of parents may have is when they give their child an iPad. The scenario looks like this: the child has an iPad that has been logged into by the parents, and every document, picture, or even text message (depending on the settings) can be accessed by your child. Would you be comfortable if your child saw every text message conversation you had? What if your child was with your ex-spouse at the time? Could that have any ramifications for a custody agreement?

A New Jersey Appeals Court found itself answering this question in the case of E.K.S. v. A.C.S.  Two sons were driving with their father and looking at their iPads when the younger son started making “weird sounds.” The older son then began to read a “provocative text” that was on the screen, causing the father to immediately pull the car over and grab the iPads from the boys. He saw a nude photo of his ex-wife, the boys’ mother, accompanied by text messages to a man,  who also happened to be a client of the mother’s employer.  The client was married – but not to the boys’ mother. The father took a picture of the text. He then returned to his ex’s house and have her remove the content from the iPad. 

At some point, the father insisted that she give up his financial arrears – or, he would send  the compromising texts and photos to her employer, to the man to whom she was sending the text messages, and to his wife. Essentially, he was blackmailing her. She agreed to waive the nearly $10,000 in unpaid support, but wanted written confirmation that he was not going to give out the material. The father would not agree and the mother filed for a restraining order, claiming that he was harassing her with threats to send her pictures to her employers and friends if she refused to waive his outstanding and due child support arrears. Had the father made good on his threats, it would have exposed the client’s affair to his wife, and potentially cost the mother her job. The restraining order application also exposed an alleged history of violent threats from the father to the mother. 

The court looked at the entire history in deciding to grant the mother a final restraining order. In addition, the court looked at whether “immediate danger” existed and decided the best interests of the children and potential victim. Here, it was clear to the court that the husband’s intent was to harass his ex-wife. It specifically found that there was no reason for him to take a picture of the text message, except as insurance to get what he wanted. The Appellate Court agreed,  finding that his only purpose was to “annoy and alarm” her.  

The real takeaway from this case is that people need to be careful with what they share electronically – both through devices and online, because they can have real consequences.

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