You are in the middle of your divorce. You don’t want to call your soon-to-be ex because emotions are running high. Instead, you decide to send a long text and give him or her a piece of your mind. Beware. You may have just created an exhibit that can be used against you in the divorce to make you look unreasonable, harassing or even abusive. Since judges are people too, it is imperative that you keep your communications courteous and cooperative. Otherwise, you risk losing credibility in front of the judge.
Don’t despair. Here are some guidelines that can help you keep your email and text communications productive and free of inflammatory language in divorce.
- The Golden Rule: treat your soon-to-be ex as you wish to be treated. A cordial tone can help facilitate good co-parenting and will always be favored by the court if the text or email ends up as an exhibit.
- Keep it short and information-based. Focus on a brief exchange of information instead of a lengthy emotional rant.
- Don’t assume the worst, criticize the other party or use “always/never” language in your texts or emails. These habits can make you appear unreasonable.
- Avoid profanity. Focus on the sort of language you would use if your mother were going to read the text. Using “please” and “thank you” is ideal.
- If it’s possible for you to communicate without losing your cool, consider picking up the phone. Telephone communication can be easier than written communication because it avoids the tonal disconnects that can sometimes occur in email and text messages. It also doesn’t leave a paper trail that can come back to haunt you as an exhibit later in your case. The difficulty with telephone communication is that you lose written documentation of what was said and when. However, if you are able to reach an agreement over the phone, you can always follow up with a confirmation text or email afterward.
- Whether you are communicating by phone or by email/text, remember to choose appropriate times for your communications, and be thoughtful about not sending multiple messages over a short period of time. A barrage of communications during a single day can be interpreted as harassing.
- No name-calling. Respectful language is the key to successful divorce communications.
- If possible, try to respond to texts and emails within 24 hours, or sooner if the issue is emergent. Being responsive is polite.
- By the same token, take a deep breath before responding. The ease of text and email can result in precipitous communications. A moment of reflection can often result in better communication.
- Remember that good communication is the key to good co-parenting. Even if you don’t agree on much, most parents can agree that good co-parenting is good for their children.