Emails and Texts
Negative emotions between divorcing or litigating parents impacts on co-parenting. Parents often express these emotions to the other parent via email or text often sent in the spur of the moment. Emails and texts are often nasty, overly critical, demeaning, derogatory, and insulting, even containing curse words. Some contain lectures or “speechifying” about that parent’s parenting and expositions extolling their own good parenting. These explosive texts and emails require no response and are often sent by the recipient parent to their attorneys. They are used at trial against the sender. They are used in cross examination to contradict testimony and in direct examination to portray the other parent as who they “really are” contrary to how they are portraying themselves. Either way, they are the parent’s own words being used against them.
Threatening messages can be used in domestic violence and order of protection case as evidence of harassment or other crimes.
Sending emails and texts to the other parent’s employer or co-worker is also problematic and can cause the sender legal jeopardy by involving their employer and co-workers in a parental dispute.
Often emails and texts are sent in a moment and legitimate topics are included by text and email making it difficult for the recipient parent to actually figure out what the sender agreed to or the message they were trying to convey. Vile language being added to the text message or email makes deciphering legitimate messages even more difficult. In one case, a parent sent the other parent over 100 emails, text messages, and communications during the course of a weekend. It required a secretary to keep up with the incessant communication and to respond.
Social media is often used by parties to depict aspects of their lives online. Some aspects of ones’ social or personal life should not be made public because it can and will be used in Court. Parents trying to minimize their income and therefore child support obligation, are not helped by showing themselves standing next to a Maserati or dressed in chunky gold jewelry (“Bling”) in a Rolls Royce. Stories told on social media can be told in Court as well. Another litigant whitened his hair to fake a drug test but posted the photo of himself on Instagram and it was of course discovered.
Online posts such as on Facebook, can show social gatherings that may contradict dates and times given re scheduling such as saying one had to work while on social media being depicted at a club with a significant other at that time.
In one case, online posts of Pride showed the consumption of alcohol during a period when breast feeding.
Often when parents were once a couple, the followers on their accounts include co-workers and family members. One client wrote on her Facebook account about the other parent’s physical abuse of her. The account was still accessible to the husband’s co-workers. The husband threatened a libel suit and claimed it jeopardized his income, which would result in a reduction in support.
Screenshots of online postings can be used at trial as exhibits of bad behavior.
Litigants who use GoFundMe to raise funds for litigation costs are placing personal details about themselves, the child and the other parent and the case online in a public sphere. Most often a court will order it be taken down if it is not done so voluntarily. Often the poster gives their side of the argument for all to read in an attempt to get more donations and to paint the other parent in an unflattering light.
Better Communication Options for Parents
Parents need to communicate if they are to have joint legal custody or decision making. They also need to communicate re-scheduling issues that will come up from time to time, medication if a child is ill, and appointments for the child. Their communication needs to be civil, succinct and contain all the information necessary to communicate with nothing more. The communications must be limited in number. There are Apps that parents can use. Most often recommended is Our Family Wizard (OFW) which can monitor tone, Talking Parents, AppClose, and Cozi.
Social media postings should be private. The parties’ children can be particularly vulnerable to outsiders being able to view them. In one case, a child shown playing the piano was available to public viewing subjecting the child who was named in the post to potential abuse and unwanted attention. The child herself did not want to be videoed and displayed publicly.
Parents should not use children as props in social media postings to show off their “good parenting” or to promote a product such as an influencer does. There should be no commentary on the other parent in any postings.
Parents are advised to clean their friends and follower’s lists, make their profiles private, change their passwords and don’t post anything about the other side or the case. Photos of yourself having a grand old time with alcohol in your hand can be used to further claims of alcohol abuse.