By: Janette Jordan
New Years 2018 is upon us. It’s that time of year again for reflection and new beginnings. We all have room to grow and improve, especially when you’re attempting to co-parent through a divorce, or even after. The holidays can be an especially difficult time and every person’s situation is different. Poor and negative communication can only make the situation work. Today, there are many ways of communicating, whether via phone, email, text, or a third party parental communication site. Regardless of the media, how things are stated still matters, and venom can also come through in written words. When it comes to communicating with your ex about the kids, here are some things to consider.
Tone & Language: I tell every client that comes through my door, “communicate with the other party as if a judge is looking over your shoulder,” because typically, that’s what will end up happening when you have a dispute that the courts need to resolve. No matter how frustrated you may get, you should avoid using derogatory language, even if the other side “started it first”. Poor parenting behavior is often the first accusation made in contested child custody cases and you want to make sure your communications do not support that. Only you can control how you respond.
Subject Matter: One of the most common issues when trying to co-parent is staying on message. It’s easy to digress into old habits of communication and feed into the other party. Make sure that you’re focusing on the children and issues surrounding them. Some parties even have restricted what topics can be discussed incorporated into their parenting plan. If you have orders limiting what topics you can discuss with the other parent make sure you them closely, as they are enforceable by the court and subject to contempt charges if violated.
Frequency: If you are sending the other side messages at odd hours, multiple messages within a short time frame with no response, or if the other side has asked you to stop, you need to cautious because this category can have some criminal and civil implications as well as domestic relations. Remember that these messages are often going to end up, in one way or another, in front of the court if your case is contested. If these communications are found to rise to a level of harassment, you could be facing a temporary protection order, permanent protection order, or a no contact order. Additionally, these types of communications oftentimes serve to hinder, not enhance, a free flowing co-parenting dialogue.
Alternatives: There are many platforms available to clients who are looking for other ways to coordinate and communicate with the other parent regarding the children besides email and text message. In Colorado, the two most common platforms recommended by the courts and family law attorneys, are Our Family Wizard and Talking Parents. Our Family Wizard is a paid for service that allows parties to track payments, calendar parenting time, and communicate through a safe portal. You can even add a feature that monitors your tone in any message you send to the other party! Talking Parents is a free service that allows conversations to be sent to one another with read receipts, attachments, and notifications separate from your inbox and texts. You can even download the entire communication history if necessary, which can be used in court. These platforms can be accessed from the web and your mobile device. They are helpful when you want to be able to separate your daily communications from the other parent that may be disruptive, abusive, or convoluted.
The reality is that no matter how much you may like, dislike, or even hate your ex, they are half of the reason you have your children in the first place. Be thankful for the beautiful persons the two of you have created together and focus on doing everything in the best interests of the them. Though none of us has a magical time machine in with which we can go back and change or undo some of the things we have said or done in the past, we all have the power to make determinations, or resolutions, moving forward to change how we may interact with that other parent. Though there are no guarantees that they will reciprocate, a certain peace of mind comes from knowing you have made efforts, in the best interest of your children, to promote a better co-parenting relationship. Writing the last firm blog post for 2017, my hope is to end the old year and start the new off on a positive note.