Does it matter what I email or text message to the other parent?
Woops! I sent a bad electronic message, now what?
Family law is emotional. When dealing with people’s most important assets, emotional lows and highs are to be expected, but that does not mean one has to act out. What is important to remember in family law is that a Judge is human, and impressions matter. This is especially pertinent if the parties do not resolve their case and have a Judge make decisions about custody, support and all other issues that may arise. In this situation one should remember that every single message may be brought before the court. Therefore, unless you would willingly place the message before the Court, do not write it to the other party, because it will likely show up.
With proper foundation, text messages may be admitted, as well as emails. Even before the time of a hearing, the Court reviews the respective court filings by parties, which often attach such electronic correspondence, which will be reviewed prior to the hearing. It is at this initial stage and with the Court’s review of the paperwork that impressions are formed and certainly assist the Court in making decisions, especially upon conflicting and contradictory allegations. Electronic communication also can lack conveyance of the emotional circumstances existing at the time of transmission which can very much damage a party.
Electronically transmitted messages that are found to be harassing, stalking and/or to disturb the peace, can form the basis of the issuance of a restraining order, which can have many implications including employment, immigration, and custody, just to name a few. As well, a message that would not seem harassing if taken out of context can certainly turn into harassment if sent in a harassing manner, or to instill fear, etc.
What if I just don’t respond to Electronic correspondence from the other Parent?
Refusal to respond to the other party especially about important co-parenting and custody issues can reflect negatively upon a party and be used against them. In the Court’s determination of joint versus sole legal custody, if one parent refuses to respond thus making co-parenting impossible, they may be denied legal custody because decision making is impossible to the detriment of the child(ren). In this situation, a party that cannot get a response should confirm transmission by email. Email is preferred to text messages for this reason.
If one party refuses to respond to another party about custody issues, a Judge can Order that when there is no such response from the other party within 24/48 hours, such is deemed a “Yes” to whatever question or request was posed. With this, some harassment through refusing to respond to important inquiries may be avoided. There are websites such as “Our Family Wizard” or “Talking Parents,” (which is free) that allow the Court to limit communication to this specific electronic method, and to monitor communication between parties, along with many other useful utensils available on these websites for co-parenting. Parties do not have to wait for a Court Order, they can agree and sign up for these services; just ask the other party if they will agree. If not, one may request this from the Court.
If a party has been explosive, abusive, mean and/or inappropriate, it is important to stop immediately. It may be helpful to participate in anger management to change this behavior for oneself and their family. With completion of such, one can demonstrate to the Court that they have proactively sought assistance to change this behavior which should no longer be considered by the Court.