Don’t Text Like an Idiot
The best way to communicate with the other side during a divorce is in writing. It doesn’t need to be fancy, formal, or have perfect punctuation. What is important is that you do not look like an asshole and that you can prove what was said between the two of you. Many of our clients communicate with the other side via parent communicator apps, email or text messages during cases. All of those are just fine, BUT remember that text messages are often misinterpreted, especially in emotionally charged situations like a divorce. Please remember to give context to messages and not to use sarcasm without clearly indicating that in the message. Also remember, that sending a text message to someone when you are upset or pissed off is a quick and easy thing to do BUT a text is admissible evidence. This means that what you say through a text matters. The message was fast and easy to craft but has a long-lasting effect on you and your case.
So, here’s some simple advice to help you manage your messages while going through the messiness of divorce or a custody case.
Do take your time to think about what you’re texting. Like we learned in the first Frozen movie, “people make bad choices when they’re sad or mad or scared…” Never send a text when you’re in the middle of your feelings. Take the time to get your emotions in check before you start typing.
Do use text for brief interactions about arrangements, like pick-up and drop off of kids. Texts are best for brief logistical communications or emergencies during a divorce. If you need to have a more important conversation about an educational or medical decision for your kid or about an activity and how you will split expenses for it, we suggest that you use a co-parenting communicator like TalkingParents.com, Family Wizard or App Close to keep important information like this in threads by topic where you can easily find it in the future to make sure you are following your agreement.
Use text with the complete understanding that anything you say can easily become a screenshot. If you receive a nasty text, keep those texts! But do not engage. If it goes on a long time, feel free to tell your spouse or the other parent that you are happy to discuss the topic with them but that you don’t feel this particular way of communicating is productive at this time and suggest that you both come back after a break. Do have another person review your message for context and possible miscommunications. We’re not saying have someone type up what you’re going to say, but having someone review your message can help you process what you mean and clear up and avoid any potential issues.
Do not forget the power of a screenshot. Messages can easily become evidence through a screen shot or be pulled off a phone using software. Messages can be pulled off a broken, dead, or old phone.
Do not think you can delete a social account or a text and the record is gone. Lawyers are very good at pulling up lots and lots of old info. Not to mention, your soon-to-be ex is likely saving all they can to use against you.
Do not resort to name-calling, being disrespectful, or arguing via text. This may seem obvious but when conversations get heated, it’s often a natural go-to. If you find yourself tempted to throw out an insult, walk away from that cellphone! Do not engage when you receive an accusatory message, harassing messages or name calling. Sinking to the other side’s level doesn’t help your case. It just makes you both look bad to the Judge. You should behave as an adult and answer questions but once you’ve done that move on. It will save you time, your sanity and your case.
Do not forget that when you are in a contested case, your text messages are not just for the other side. They are also for the judge and the children’s guardian ad litem (if applicable) to see why you are having trouble communicating and who should get legal custody if you are unable to make joint decisions. If your messages show that you are unable to put personal issues aside and co-parent your kids, it will not go well for you.
People often underestimate how much their communications affect the outcome of their case. If you keep these tips in mind during your case, you will have a lot less terrible text messages to read out loud and explain at trial. If you have questions about communicating with the other parent, feel to reach out to us, but please do not share any confidential information in the comments on this page.