Whether you and your ex-spouse are on great terms and have coffee once a week or you can’t stand the sight of him or her, there are methods for you both to communicate with one another that can benefit your children tremendously. Basically, there is no excuse for not communicating with your ex-spouse at least in regard to your children. Technology is your friend in this area and you should look to take advantage of as many of the following methods of communication as is possible for you.
Trusty email. It’s fast. It’s easy. It’s on your desk at work. It’s on your phone while you’re watching television. You can fire off an email while something is on your mind- which, obviously, can be a good or bad thing depending on the mood you’re in. You don’t have to wait until you’re out of a business meeting to give an update to your ex-spouse about the change in time for your son’s school play. It’s an all around good method for communicating if you and your ex-spouse aren’t exactly best buddies.
Another benefit to using email is that it creates an indelible time stamp of the communication that was sent from you to him or her. Your attorney probably talked to you about creating a paper trail or a record of your actions in a specific area when your divorce was ongoing. Basically you always want to engage in a system where your actions are backed up by proof of you doing them. This way neither you nor your ex-spouse can complain about any missed communications.
Parenting plans contained in your final decree of divorce will often mandate that email be used when communicating anything regarding your children with your ex-spouse. While we can sometimes let work emails sit for a day before responding, you may also be ordered to respond to an ex-spouse’s email in a certain time frame so be aware of whether or not this is a factor in your life.
If you are truly nerdy and want to make absolutely sure that you are keeping track of emails and other communications, you can print each email sent and received between you and your ex-spouse and place them into a folder or notebook. This way you can rely on a true timeline if you and he/she get into an argument or dispute about what was or what was not communicated to one another. Taking things to another level we can also foresee that such a notebook of emails would be helpful to a family law attorney should any dispute or argument turn into a lawsuit.
All of the above benefits of email also apply to text messages. They are quick, easy and take little effort to send and receive. They are on your phone and often times your watch and vehicle communications system. Again, very little excuse for not responding to a text as it can take literally seconds to do so. Exchanging basic information about your child via text message is a no brainer if an emergency or sudden change of plan occurs.
Be aware that the nice part of email is that the “system” of emails never goes down. There will always be a record of the emails that you send and receive. The same is not true of text messages. You have to take a second or two to make sure that a text message was actually sent and then was received by your ex-spouse. Phone batteries go dead, cell signals get lost and people lose track of their phones for hours or even days at a time. Texts are great, but problems can still occur with their usage. Consider other means if you are communicating long, detailed messages.
It’s amazing that just over 100 years after their invention, telephone calls feel as ancient as the dinosaurs in many regards. The simple act of picking up a phone, dialing a number and speaking to another human being can now seem like a time consuming and burdensome act compared to the relative ease of email and text messaging. If you are a “millennial” and grew up with these alternative methods of communication this applies doubly to you in all likelihood.
Still, telephone is the next most “personal” method of communication outside of speaking to someone face to face. Save for situations where a court has found that communication via telephone could be counter productive, there is little excuse for not being able to pick up a phone and communicate messages to your ex-spouse. Especially when it comes to the sort of long, detailed messages that I discussed a moment ago in our section on text messaging. The phone works great to convey importance and other emotion that are nearly impossible to communicate effectively through email or text messaging.
Of course, if you and your ex-spouse have a history of getting into arguments when speaking to one another on the phone it is not a good idea to use this medium unless in the case of an emergency.
Think about setting up a schedule to talk to your ex-spouse for a weekly phone call. I do that with clients when I know my schedule is going to be busy for a few weeks stretch. For instance, I will call a client who I know likes to get a phone call (or calls) and schedule a specific date of each week at a specific time to speak on the telephone. You and your ex-spouse can do the same.
Ideas to discuss with your ex-spouse in a weekly phone call can range from how your child is doing in school to problems that she is experiencing with a friend on the basketball team. If there are school assignments coming up it is best to let your ex-spouse know about them just in case he or she is not already aware. Do not assume that just because you know something that he or she does as well. Your child may share information differently with both of you so it’s not fair to expect he or she to know what you know and vice versa.
Communication needs to be courteous
Above all else, whatever method of communication you choose to take advantage of when conveying information to your ex-spouse you need to act with courtesy. There is no excuse for being nasty or belligerent towards your ex-spouse, even if he or she has acted that way towards you. I realize that it is easy for me to type this considering that I am not the one who has an emotional and possibly combustible relationship with this person in my past. However, a piece of advice I learned a long time ago that has served me well is to never miss an opportunity to keep your mouth shut. You can save yourself some trouble now and in the future by doing so.
Do not name call or use foul language especially in email or text messaging. Assume that when you text an attorney is looking over your and your ex-spouse’s shoulder reading each message. Keeping this in mind will go a long way towards ensuring that no attorneys ever get involved in your lives again.
Everything you wanted to know about email- and more- the subject of tomorrow’s blog post
Writing an email to your spouse isn’t just putting your fingers on a keyboard and clicking “send”. To communicate effectively, efficiently and respectfully there are steps that you need to take. Come back to our blog tomorrow and we will share some tips on that subject.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about co-parenting or any other subject in family law please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free of charge consultations with a licensed family law attorney. Consultations can be scheduled six days a week.