Agreeing to life-altering decisions via text message

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Agreeing to life-altering decisions via text message

In other SCOTUS news, the court ruled 5-4 for the adoptive parents in the Baby Veronica case. In part because the father sent the mother a text message to the effect of "I'd rather terminate my parental rights than pay child support." In the Baby Wyatt case, the mother sent the father a text message stating, "I'm considering adoption" which was enough for the UT court to say the father had no legal standing to contest the adoption. (The parents were residents of VA and the baby was born in VA. Immediately following the birth the father tried to track down his daughter but was refused by the hospital. He then went to court and was granted custody by VA courts but UT says oh well.) Anyway, the thing the cases have in common is that these decisions have put a lot of weight on something said via text message.

With text messages, there is room for misunderstanding or taking things out of context. People don't always mean what they say at the time.

We wouldn't allow a landlord to evict a tenant via text message or a tenant to give 30 days' notice. It wouldn't be enough to serve a spouse with divorce papers. Yet it's enough in UT to properly notify a father his parental rights are being terminated.

So my debate question is whether or not you think people should be held to monumental decisions based on text messages? If so, is there a limit to the use of the text message to notify others of your legal intentions?

SID081108's picture
Last seen: 3 years 4 months ago
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No they should not. That is crazy!

AlyssaEimers's picture
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With texting, there is no way to know for sure who is sending the text. It could be someone who just find the phone lying around or someone with a vendetta. Texting should not be a way of a major decision.

Spacers's picture
Last seen: 10 months 3 weeks ago
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ITA with the others, and I'm dismayed that the courts have given that much weight to text messages in both of those cases. It is a very poor precedent to set.

Last seen: 6 months 2 weeks ago
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Agreed with the above. Decisions involving life changes should be made with a paper trail. Not through phone or text messages.

MissyJ's picture
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Absolutely not... and I would apply the same (negative) to email "notifications" as well for something considered significant enough to involve courts. There is WAY too much potential for tampering. Who could say whether a text was taken completely out of context such as this:

Bio-Mom: I believe that I'm going to give up the baby for adoption. I just can't see us handling the responsibility.
Bio-Dad: Right, I agree.
Bio-Dad: Since there is no "us" and you have decided you don't want the responsibility -- *I* will raise MY son. I may not have all the answers right now but I want the baby. No to adoption. (MESSAGE DELETED)
Bio-Mom: I'm glad we're in agreement. TTYL

Unless Bio-Dad (in this scenario but would apply to anyone in this type of situation) kept all of this message thread, there is no way for him to prove what all he actually said.

Even if his initial "text message" response was negative, I cannot envision EVER considering a text sufficient notification for giving up my child. Disgusting decision by the court. I hope dad is able to appeal. SURELY there has to be some common sense available somewhere in our judicial system still.

ange84's picture
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No, no, no and never. I am familiar with the process for adoption (local only though) and it's a very full on process in my state of Australia. There is counselling, time frames between consents and you have to prove to the court that the father has been attempted to be located, has consented if known and if not provide as much information as possible from what you can gather. If the court is not satisfied with attempts they can send you back to try and get more info. It's hard work, and only a minor safe guard as a birth mother can just say it was a one night stand and they don't know the father.

Alissa_Sal's picture
Last seen: 2 years 9 months ago
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Posts: 6427

Agree with everyone. And on a side note, what is the deal with UT? Is that like the state where father's rights go to die, or what?