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Are your texts really deleted?

On Behalf of | Sep 15, 2022 | Divorce, Family Law |

Earlier this year, the Congressional investigation into the events surrounding January 6 had a surprising setback. The Secret Service did a months-long system migration that essentially wiped all texts sent by agents on January 5 and 6, including those tasked that day with protecting the then-president and then-vice president. Agents were supposed to manually back up their devices before the migration if they wanted to retain the texts and other phone records. News of the deleted texts made headlines worldwide and could lead to criminal charges of destroying federal records or obstructing justice.

It is not that easy

The average person may believe they can delete emails or texts, but it is not that simple. Many users know that there is the additional step of emptying their digital garbage, which is a folder for files marked for deletion. But even then, the files are not deleted. Instead, the “deleted” files are made available to be written over when the device’s memory hits capacity. Moreover, digital forensics can recover data that was written over. Even destroying a device or computer will not do the job, with data passing through servers and satellites and staying on the machines of the other person who sent or received the message, regardless of whether you delete your copy.

Recovering a spouse’s messages

It is common for contentious divorces or those involving high-value assets to use experts in digital forensics. Spouses who believe their soon-to-be-ex is hiding assets or damaging information may still be able to recover that data. The experts can get the information or uncover evidence of “spoilation,” which is the deliberate destruction or alteration of the data.

You can’t be too careful

It is best to avoid the temptation to hide anything during a divorce. Those who try to cover their digital tracks will only raise suspicion regardless of what was deleted, and it can lead to further investigation. Conversely, suspicious spouses must also be careful to not violate applicable laws. An experienced Texas Board-Certified Family Law expert attorney can help clients recognize the signs of suspicious digital activity and discuss options for determining the best course of action to address these concerns.