When it comes to a dispute over a divorce or child custody matter, tensions can rise quickly. If the conflict goes unresolved, what started as a simple disagreement can escalate, in some cases leading to harassment by one or even both of the parties involved.
Harassment can come in many forms, and text messages are no exception. But is harassment via text actually a crime, or is it something that needs to be dealt with outside of the law?
Harassment or Stalking?
According to Section 42.07 of the Texas Penal Code, harassment indeed covers a broadly-defined range of what’s termed “electronic communication” that includes text messages. Depending on the nature and severity of the communication, those types of communications can also graduate to a stalking category, covered in Section 42.072.
While harassment is a misdemeanor, stalking is a felony, so it’s important to document all incidences that might qualify as either if they’re happening to you. If you’re filing a police report or pursuing other legal action, it will help to know if what you’re experiencing rises to the level of a felony.
Document Your Experience
While harassment via text should be easy for you to document, as the evidence is right there on your phone, it’s best to back up that documentation. Phones, after all, can be stolen, damaged, or lost, and though your phone can be replaced, you won’t be able to get the evidence back unless you have those text messages backed up.
In addition to backing up your phone’s data regularly, take screenshots of the texts in question, email them to a secure address, and file them on a device or in the cloud — but whatever you choose, make sure it’s something that only you can access.
Legal Actions You Can Take
There are protections on top of what’s in the Texas Penal Code in certain situations. If you are in the process of getting a divorce, you’re most likely operating under temporary orders that provide guidelines for behavior during the divorce process. Any harassment you’re experiencing from your spouse as you’re going through divorce would be covered under the temporary orders, and would be in direct violation of something a judge has signed off on.
If you’re getting harassing or threatening texts, you may also want to consider a Protective Order, known colloquially as a restraining order. While it’s possible that texting is as far as this behavior would go, it’s also possible that it could escalate into a situation in which you’re physically harmed. A Protective Order can be a helpful tool in not only guarding yourself against such escalation, and also in letting police know about someone potentially harmful.
In a blog article we did some time back, we covered the three types of Protective Orders available. A MEPO (a Magistrate’s Emergency Protective Order), which protects someone from a potential threat for a period of one to three months; a Temporary Protective Order, which offers extendable coverage; and a Final Protective Order, which requires a hearing, but when granted, can be in effect for as long as two years.
At the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance, we’ve worked on divorces and decree modifications involving domestic violence, harassment, and other issues that require knowledge of those issues as well as how to get a divorce to the finish line. We’re happy to provide guidance through an initial consultation, legal counsel to arrive at the resolution you need, and recommendations for the emotional support you may need alongside your legal assistance. We take any harassment seriously, and we’re here to help resolve any situation where you’re experiencing that.