In matrimonial proceedings, our clients often provide us volumes of email exchanges between the separated spouses which purport to be helpful to the cause.  According to them, the missives, for example, show how the other side is denying access or deliberately concealing income, or whatever other issue is in contention.

Indeed, sometimes the exchanges are helpful, but often they are not, and only serve to waste a lot of time and money that is passed on to the client in their next bill.

Most people understand the basic concept: if a party to a proceeding makes an admission (be it orally or in writing), it can and will be used against them.  As long as the utterances are actually relevant to a point in contention, and as long as they are presented in their proper context, they can be very compelling evidence.

But because of the rules of evidence and the old hearsay rule, the key point is who is making the point and whether or not it constitutes an actual admission against their interest.  The flip side of the rule is that whatever you say can not be used by you to prove the truth what you are claiming.

So, for example, back to the emails:  those voluminous email exchanges provided by our clients will often be composed of primarily accusations by the client against the spouse, e.g. “you have denied me access on the following occasions and for the following phony reasons….[blah, blah, blah]”.

I have news for you:  those assertions are generally worthless and do not contribute a scintilla to proving the underlying allegation. They may be relevant to showing your state of mind (that you feel you were being denied access) and to proving that the other side was on notice that there was a problem, but not much else.  Obviously, if the spouse acknowledges the allegation as being true, then we have a classic admission and the entire exchange would be admissible to prove the point and, all other things being considered,  would be very persuasive.

Moral of the story:  before printing out those 86 pages of email exchanges, make sure that they actually contain admissions by the other side that are actually relevant to something in issue.  If 95% of the copy is yours, there is not likely to be much useful content in the exchanges, and you may just end up costing yourself hundreds of dollars in legal fees as your lawyer will have to review all 86 pages, on the assumption that there is something in there useful.