Your ex-wife often refuses to let you see the children for scheduled visitations. You fear you are losing touch with your children and disappointing them when she prohibits you from seeing them.

You want to sue her for contempt of the court order that granted you the right to visit the children. The evidence is right there in your cellphone, but how do you get it before the judge?


Suppose your ex cancels scheduled visits by sending text messages such as, "U no c kids today." You have saved the text messages. You plan to testify that you received cancellations from her through texts and that you were denied visitation on the dates of the texts. So far, so good from a court standpoint.

You can testify to what you understood from her text messages — that is, that she would not allow you to see the children as planned. But you have to follow the rules of evidence if you try to introduce the messages themselves.

Before evidence can be admitted in court, it has to be authenticated, shown that it is what you say it is. Good news for you: A North Carolina court ruled that a text message can be admissible, with proper authentication. Although Maryland judges do not have to follow out-of-state rulings, the rulings can be used as persuasion.

In the North Carolina case, a defendant accused of theft was trying to exclude from court a message he sent from his cellphone: "I got a 64 inch flat Samsung." The court held that the message was admissible. It concerned one of the stolen items, the cellphone was found on the defendant and phone records showed multiple calls from that phone on the day of the crime.

If your ex-wife denies sending the messages canceling visits, you can be prepared to counter her testimony if you have available dates and times the texts were received by your cellphone, and what the texts said.

You want to print the text messages, so you have a record to show your ex and the judge. A Google search brings up several websites with instructions on how to download messages from your phone. One advises that the easiest, although slowest, method is to email the messages to your computer and then print them (http://www.soundfeelings.com/free/save_text_messages.htm). The site also lists other options.

One final hurdle before you get to court with the texts. They are out-of-court statements by your ex, and most out-of-court statements that another witness wants to testify to would be excluded by the rule against hearsay evidence. But you are able to offer them against your ex because they are her own statements. Legal reasoning: When someone says something out of court that makes him/her look bad, he/she is probably speaking truthfully.

Donna Engle is a retired Westminster attorney. Reach her with questions or feedback at 410-840-2354 or denglelaw@gmail.com. Her column, which provides legal information but not legal advice, appears on the second and fourth Sunday each month in Life & Times.