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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 is writing this blog; someone who attended four years of college and three years of law school is writing about how to type and send an email. This is all pretty basic stuff.

You may have a point on some level, 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, your email can send subliminal and secondary messages. 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. However, how you convey this information can set a tone for future communications and their effectiveness.

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 some common threads bind all well-written emails. After being in court all day, I will review my voicemails when I get back to my desk. Those voicemails that are 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 challenging 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 brainpower 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 available to commit to reading your email. Then consider if the messages 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 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, significantly more than one issue that is not related to one another, consider numbering the items to distinguish the endpoint 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 is crucial to this discussion that I will 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 your marriage. It would help if you struck while the iron is hot with this person. Please do not waste time and attention 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 they will begin to disregard and not respond to emails you send. Pick your spots and communicate accordingly. Change from email to phone calls or wait until you see them next if you feel like you've been inundating this person with messages. Send an email if you have to bring an emergency to the attention of your ex-spouse. Forget any second thoughts on your appearance in the event of an emergency.

Windshield, not rearview 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 prior bad behavior or to re-hash an event that bothered you. I can assure you that the message loses meaning via email, and you will not get the heartfelt and apologetic response you seek. If anything, you're sending an email about that kind of subject matter that will annoy and confuse your ex-spouse.

Instead, choose to use email to discuss future activities and 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 they do not discuss financial matters with your ex-spouse. I'm not even saying not to email about economic issues 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 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" don't tell your ex-spouse what you will write about other than your son, Jack. "Thoughts on Jacks' 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 from which she will sometimes send me emails. Later on, when I ask 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 send, receive and view emails on your phone quickly. 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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