Let’s be honest – A lot of separated parents do not like each other and want to have as little as possible to do with the other parent. The problem is that you had child together and you have responsibilities to raise that child. Unless the child was conceived against a parent’s will, then it was a choice and there are ramifications until that child reaches adulthood that require parents to cooperate to co-parent the child.
Recently, we have had to repeatedly discuss with clients and consultations that their communication with the co-parent is inappropriate. Therefore, it necessitates that we bring up the issue to share our guidance regarding co-parenting communication.
To me, the process of communicating with a co-parent should be a businesslike communication regardless of whether it is verbal or in writing. If there is a tendency to allow emotions into the communication, I always suggest that in writing is better than verbally. Usually, parents have been in a relationship long enough to know how to push buttons, doing communication verbally allows this to happen more frequently. Moreover, there is more chance the child could overhear verbal communication than read written communication.
This brings up another point. Children must not have access to communication between parents and should never have access to Court filings or materials. There is a specific local rule, Eighth Judicial District Court Rule 5.301, which prohibits parents from discussing the litigation or allowing children access to litigation materials.
What does this mean? Keep passwords confidential, don’t allow a child access to a cellular device you use to text the other parent, don’t leave materials around the house where the child can access them, etc.
When sending written communication, I often suggest that clients type it up and sit on it before sending. If you type it up and come back to it, you can look at the communication with a fresh prospective. Was the communication businesslike? Would you want the Judge to see the written communication? Those are questions you should ask yourself before hitting send. There should be NO CAPITAL letters in the communication because that is perceived as yelling. There should be no cussing or derogatory comments.
When you go back over the written communication, make sure to read it to ensure that there are no personal attacks in the communication. Focus solely on the child and the purpose of the communication. Do not bring up the past. Try to make the communication as short as possible. The shorter the better. I find that when clients or consultations send longer communication, it tends to get too personal which creates conflict. Long written communication may come across as a lecture or one person is simply “talking down” to the other person. This type of communication can actually cause more conflict which is typically not the intended goal to begin with.
The whole point is to reduce the conflict in the communication and focus on the child. Everything you send has the potential to end up being used against you in Court. If you would not want the Judge to read it, do not send it! The more conflict that occurs, the bigger impact it can have on the minor child and custodial Orders.
So, let’s break it down for ease:
- Communicate in writing whenever possible and keep the message brief. Not every message requires a response;
- Wait and see approach. Give it time to marinade before hitting the send button;
- Make sure the communication is not personal and that it focuses on the child;
- Do not focus on the past; and
- Make the communication straight and to the point.
A lot of times, clients and consults discuss that the other parent does not follow the same rules that I have set out for them. I am like a broken record. I do not care what the other parent is doing. I expect that if I give guidance, it is being followed to ensure that you are putting your best foot forward. So, as they say in the Disney movie, let it go!