Issues involving spoliation of evidence are certainly not new. They’ve been going on for centuries, with some reports dating back to the 1700s.
Spoliation is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. It can make it so that the outcome of a court case is certainly not fair or just. It undermines the entire system. Some legal experts have gone so far as to say that it can lead to erroneous court decisions and that it can in this sense “destroy fairness and justice.”
How is it defined?
The exact act that leads to this issue may be different from one case to another. But the general definition that is applied to the spoliation of evidence in legal cases is as follows:
It is the “destruction or material alteration of evidence or the failure to preserve property for another’s use as evidence in pending or reasonably foreseeable litigation.”
Essentially, the court needs to have all the proper evidence in front of it to make a decision. If someone knows that this evidence may work against them, they could be tempted to alter that evidence or destroy it so that the court cannot use it. This is illegal, but people often hope that they can get away with it simply by virtue of the fact that the evidence no longer works against them.
How could it happen in divorce?
One way that it could happen in a complex divorce involving significant assets is the destruction of historical records. Some records, like old tax returns, only exist in paper form and can be the only proof of a premarital interest, family gift, etc. If the other spouse destroys these records, the necessary proof can be gone forever.
Another example would be the deletion of photos from a shared account that reveal irresponsible behavior that a Court would consider in the award of support or evaluation of financial misconduct.
These are but two of many possible examples. Evidence is needed for far more than just the division of assets. Some evidence is used to determine a fair child custody situation, for instance, or to find out how much alimony or child support a person would have to pay. Destroying any of this evidence means that the court will not make a decision that is just and fair, and so it cannot be done.
If you’re worried that your spouse may do this as you move toward a divorce, take the time to preserve the evidence in any way that you can and learn about all of the legal options you have.