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Email essentials for effective communication with your ex-spouse

So you open up the blog for the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC and you see that today’s post is about…email? You may be wondering what the person writing this blog, someone who attended four years of college and three years of law school, is doing writing about how to type and send an email. This is all pretty basic stuff, right?

On some level you may have a point but I can tell you from my years of experience as a family law attorney that no two emails are created equal. The quality of the email can often impact the response you receive and the underlying message that is sent. Believe it or not there are subliminal and secondary messages that your email can send. You may think that all you are doing is letting your ex-wife know that your son’s football game has changed fields due to a wet playing surface. How you convey this information can set a tone for future communications and their effectiveness, however.

With that all said, today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will delve into the nitty-gritty of sending emails to an ex-spouse. Subtleties are often the difference between an effective and ineffective emailer.

What goes into writing a successful email?

Success is in the eye of the beholder, but there are some common threads that bind all well written emails. When I get back to my desk after being in court all day I will review my voicemails. Those voicemails that are any longer than thirty seconds cause me to cringe a little bit. This doesn’t mean that I won’t listen to every second of the voicemail or that I won’t call the person back immediately. It’s just that a long voicemail is sometimes difficult to get through.

The same can be said of emails. Long, extremely detailed and complex emails are not easy to read and take a lot more brain power than you might think to get through. An email to your spouse about updates on your daughter should not have to read like a newsletter from your neighborhood Home Owner’s Association. Consider the reader and the amount of time that he or she has available to commit to reading your email. Then consider if the messages that you are sending are better left to a phone call or even a face to face conversation.

If you have thought about these considerations and have still determined that sending an email is the most effective method of communication then by all means keep your email short and to the point. Do not dance around the subject or discuss matters of secondary importance. Communicate your message at the outset of your email and do so in clear, unmistakable language. To be unclear is to be unkind, I always say.

If you need to communicate more than one issue, especially more than one issue that are not related to one another, consider numbering the items to clearly draw a distinction between the end point of one subject and the beginning point of another. This allows your ex-spouse to refer to those numbers in their response email as well.

Brevity, brevity, brevity

Keep your emails short. I brought this up earlier and I believe it to be so important to this discussion that I am going to do it again. The email cannot be too wordy or you will lose your ex-spouse’s interest. Remember- this isn’t your mother or grandmother reading the email- someone who has an unyielding love for you. This is an ex-spouse who may already have heard enough from you during the course of your marriage. You need to strike while the iron is hot with this person. Do not waste time and their attention span on communicating anything but the essential information.

Also, keep in mind that if you send multiple emails a day or even a week this could stand to annoy your ex-spouse to the point where he or she will begin to disregard and not respond to emails you send. Pick your spots and communicate accordingly. Change from email to phone calls or simply wait until you see him or her next if you feel like you’ve been inundating this person with messages. Obviously send an email if you have to in order to bring an emergency situation to the attention of your ex-spouse. Forget any second thoughts on your own appearance in the event of an emergency.

Windshield, not rear view mirrors

Emails should be utilized to communicate messages about future events- not to discuss anything that occurred in the past. I know on some level it may feel good to lash out at your ex-spouse for their bad prior behavior or to re-hash an event that bothered you. I can assure you the message loses meaning via email and you will not get the heartfelt and apologetic response that you seek. If anything, your sending an email about that kind of subject matter will annoy and confuse your ex-spouse.

Instead, choose to use email to discuss future activities and to provide updates on your child only. Attempt to think about email as a means to cut down on future problems, be they emotional or logistical.

Finally, if your ex-spouse has been delinquent in paying child or spousal support do not utilize an email about your child to attempt to have your ex-spouse fork over the payments. Again, you risk losing sight of your intended message if you switch back and forth between holiday scheduling concerns and the fact that this month’s child support payment is four days past due. I’m not saying do not discuss financial matters with your ex-spouse. I’m not even saying not to email about financial matters with your ex-spouse. Pick your battles, however.

Subject lines are the headline for your email

Just as a catchy or snappy headline in the newspaper or webpage of your favorite news outlet can grab your attention, a well worded subject of an email can do the exact same thing. The more specific you can be, without going overboard in terms of length, the better off you will be. General headlines like, “Thoughts on Jack” doesn’t tell your ex-spouse what you are going to write about other than your son, Jack. “Thoughts on Jacks’s upcoming trip to New York (Sept. 1-12)” is better.

All emails should go to one email address

Some people have multiple email addresses that they receive email. My wife has a work email that she will sometimes send me emails from. Later on when I am asking her about that email she will have to look through both email accounts to locate my reply. To avoid situations like this designate a specific email account to use for communications regarding your child. Consider having an app downloaded to your phone that allows you to quickly send, receive and view emails on your phone. The mobility advantages to a system like this are infinite. You and your ex-spouse are busy people, in all likelihood. Remove a potential source of miscommunication and frustration and your life will become that much easier and more productive.

Communication tools of the effective divorced parent- tomorrow’s blog post subject

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC represents clients across southeast Texas. These clients and their families are the focus of our practice and we strive daily to provide them with the service that their situation demands. To learn more about our office and discuss your questions with a licensed family law attorney, please do not hesitate to contact our office today. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week. Thank you for showing an interest in this subject matter and we hope that you will return tomorrow to read more about effective communication techniques for divorced parents.

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