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In a time of instant communication and text messaging, not receiving an instant response can be irritating but for one Taiwanese couple it lead to the breakdown of their marriage and the woman filing for and being granted a Divorce.
The BBC reports that the woman sent her husband a text message via the online messaging application “Line” which also has a ‘read’ function. The read function can show a sender if the recipient has received and read the message. The woman is said to have sent her husband a number of text messages over a six month period via the application which showed the husband had ‘read’ the messages and ‘ignored’ the wife by failing to respond.
In the world of no fault divorce, there may often be a ‘fault’ attributed by one spouse to the other for the reason of the breakdown of the marriage, but the Court is often reluctant to attribute fault to either party in property proceedings, or in parenting proceedings, unless it places a child at a risk of harm.
Judge Kao in the Hsinchu District said “The defendant [Husband] did not inquire about the plaintiff [Wife], and the information sent by the plaintiff [Wife] was read but not replied to.” “The couple’s marriage is beyond repair.”
The move to accept text messages as evidence of a breakdown of a couple’s marriage is new but given the common use of instant messaging, whether it be text messages, Facebook instant messages or through a web application, it a sign of a move to accepting this type of evidence more frequently. It is also a warning to everyone else to be mindful of their actions through this type of communication.
In Australia, these types of text messages are used every day in family Courts. Whether it be to in relation to parenting proceedings, or service of a Divorce Application, we also need to take a moment to reflect on this instant communication and reconsider what we put into writing. In the context of parenting proceedings, parties must be very careful that their text messages with the other parent are polite and respectful in addressing the point, as they will likely be used against them in Court to show a lack of insight into co-parenting or inability to communicate effectively with the other parent.
In my experience, I have successfully used instant messaging to serve a party to proceedings with Initiating Court documents after difficulty in personally serving them. The client was then required to go on Affidavit as to the circumstances of the instant messaging and the response received to evidence service to the Court.
Instant messaging can be your friend or foe. You need to be careful in what is written and also what is out in the internet.
Unfortunately for this couple, it was the demise of their marital relationship evidenced by these text messages, and for the Taiwanese Court, enough to prove the marriage was irrepairable. In Australia, the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage is evidenced by a period of no less than 12 months separation.
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