E-mails and text (or other instant) messages

February 6, 2018

My advice as it relates to using social media to communicate with a former spouse?

Remember to pause, review, and think about the consequences before hitting the “send” button. Everyone will want to impulsively respond to text messages (my phone will keep “dinging” until I open a text!) but, in the context of emotionally charged issues involving your former spouse, don’t get dragged into a fast and furious heated exchange over issues that are best dealt with after a thoughtful and rational consideration as to the most appropriate response.

At a recent Family Law conference, a very experienced family law judge said this:

“Making findings of credibility at trials used to be a lonely exercise. I would      listen to what the witnesses had to say on the witness stand, usually testifying in a calm and measured manner, and then go back into my    chambers and figure out which witnesses were telling the truth.

Not anymore.

Since the advent and obsessive use of e-mails and text messages, I have the       benefit of combing through written message after message, where the parties spout their true feelings and sentiments about the other.  In the witness box, the wife is a sad and sympathetic witness, wearing a prim and proper dress.     In her e-mails and text messages, her true character is revealed for all to see     and read; a vicious, vengeful and cunning woman who will stop at nothing       to get back at her husband.”

At both motions and trials, parties will present (and judges will read), pages and pages of text messages, e-mails, and Facebook pages (unfortunately for judges, the communications are usually out of order, and judges have to sort through the written communications to try to make sense of them and give them context). The point is that judges will accept these communications as evidence and will rely on them in making findings of credibility and character.

I now advise clients that they should consider using an online communication tool (such as Our Family Wizard or 2houses) if they have any conflict in their communications with their former spouse. These online tools – which usually have a relatively low-cost membership fee – will keep track of the communications and maintain them in a cloud. This usually leads to more civil and respectful communications between the parents.

The online communication tools also allow co-parents to keep track of schedules (whether the children’s activities or the time-sharing arrangements), and allow for postings of expenses paid on behalf of the children (for example, for s. 7 expenses).

The bottom line is to remember this; for very good reason, judges are extremely concerned when parents exchange toxic communications post-separation. For the sake of the children, it is essential that parents learn how to communicate civilly and without casting blame on another. Stay brief, factual, to the point and unemotional.

And remember. Read and re-read your written communication before you hit the “send” button.