This blog previously wrote about iMessaging changes that were coming to iOS devices. Family law matters frequently utilize text messages as exhibits during hearings. As we mentioned in that blog, text messages can be a strong barometer of truth, as future litigants send text messages to one another not thinking that a third party may read them some day. For others, it’s evidence of other party’s volatile emotional state, or inability to communicate about coparenting issues.

Accordingly, it important that we update family law litigants about “unsending” and editing messages on all new versions of iOS. All of Apple’s details can be found here on its support page. In our 2022 blog, we were concerned that Apple did not provide any forensic record on iMessage of the previous versions of the original text message. Luckily, Apple is providing some forensic details within iMessage.

Now Apple developers clarified that “unsending” a message only works for two (2) minutes after sending it. In addition, when a message is unsent, the phone will send a message to the recipient that the message was unsent. Moreover, this only works on iMessage, or between iPhones. If the message is sent to an Android or Windows device, the message will not “unsend”. While this is not ideal, Apple will at least be providing a record that a message was unsent, and there is only a limited timeframe to retract the message.

Editing messages is a significantly less concerning issue than originally thought. Though editing can last up to 15 minutes before the message locks, Apple will keep a track of all edits within the text chain. This means that our concerns about agreeing to something without intention, gaslighting and more are not presently founded in the current iOS. Non-iMessage users will receive edits that clearly denotate that the text was edited.

If you do not like these features, you can always turn off iMessaging. Turning off iMessaging will force your phone to engage in only SMS text messaging. If you are unwilling to do that, then the only other thing you could do is be extremely proactive and screenshot every text message with the opposing party for any relevant conversation. However, as we previously mentioned, it will likely be extremely difficult for you to know what’s relevant until you speak to a family law attorney. Even then, you may not be fast enough to capture the text, or may not be an emotional state where “taking a screenshot” is the first thing in your mind.

As an side, Apple instituted “Safety Check” which allows you to find out what information you are sharing with others in text messaging and otherwise. iMessages can report a user’s location to people whom they may have previously shared their location with for one-time use. It’s worth exploring this feature as you may be sharing information on iMessages that you did not realize.

The family law attorneys at Parnell, Michels & McKay are experienced in providing guidance in communicating with your coparent during times of strife. If you are interested in learning more about how communication can impact parenting plans, divorce, child support, or any other legal worries, please contact us to learn more.