Making plans: A guide to parenting arrangements after separation or divorce

Appendix A: Advice about using electronic communications

Electronic communications, such as email or texting, can be a convenient and practical way to exchange information and discuss issues that affect your children. But it can also lead to misunderstandings if you are not clear.

When we communicate in person, we often use non-verbal cues (smiles, frowns, tears, tone of voice) to signal our feelings. When we email and send text messages, we lose those important non-verbal and physical cues. While that may be helpful in cases when our emotions are too strong, it can also lead to situations where someone understands a message in a different way.

Remember

Text messages can’t be cancelled or erased from another person’s cellphone after you send them. Avoid impulsive texting and take the time to read your messages before sending them.

It can be a good idea to decide ahead of time how you will use electronic communications to discuss issues related to your children. For example, perhaps you could limit texting to acknowledging when you have picked up the children or for emergency purposes only.

You can also set limits on how often and how many messages you can send in a day. 

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep your messages short and to the point. If you have more than one issue to discuss, try numbering each issue to make it easier for the other parent to follow your points.
  • Use clear subject-lines for email. This can help you keep track of messages on different issues.
  • Don’t type in CAPITAL LETTERS. This means that you are SHOUTING!
  • Be courteous in your messages. “Please”, “Thank you,” and a friendly tone can go a long way.
  • Try to keep messages about parenting issues separate from messages about financial issues. These are different issues which should be addressed separately.
  • If you are feeling emotional when you need to write a message or have to reply to an upsetting message, walk away and take some time to reflect. Re-read the message you have received to make sure you have not misread the information. Write your message when you have a clear mind.
  • Try to stick to the facts. Avoid criticizing the other parent.
  • Don't ignore emails or texts from the other parent. Respond promptly and briefly when a response is needed. Even if the other parent is simply providing you with some information and a response isn’t strictly needed, it is good etiquette to at least acknowledge the message.
  • Your message should only be addressed to the other parent. New spouses, other family members, or friends shouldn’t be included on your exchanges. For example, if the other parent sends you a message to inform you of their plans with your child, take the time to reply directly to them alone, saying something like “Thanks for letting me know.”

Remember

Emails and text messages are a record of your communications. Write your messages as if a third person were reading them—a judge could read them in the future.


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