Healthy communication during divorce can save you time and money while also leading to a productive co-parenting relationship. Speaking in person or on the phone may not be practical as a relationship is breaking down. In fact, many lawyers will advise against it because it leads to a he-said-she-said situation. Email or other means of written communication are preferred. Text messages, while convenient, are harder to keep track of, and due to their casual nature, they may lead to messages you wish you hadn’t sent. The steps below can help you communicate conveniently via text message while also leading to healthier communication during divorce.
Tips for Safe Texting with Your Co-Parent
1. Text When Clearheaded
If you are in a heightened state of emotion, pause. Text messages have permanency. What we feel in a moment of anger, hurt, or when under the influence is more extreme than after we have time to process. Even if you remain upset, what you write should always be mature and with your goals in mind. If your goal is to have things go smoothly, you may choose to hold your tongue and not raise an issue that will only cause more of an argument. If your goal is to keep costs down, not responding or keeping responses short may be your best bet. This can be a hard tactic to put in place when emotions are running high. If your goal is to have a clear record of all that has occurred, you may want to respond point by point (see numbers 2,3, and 5 below). Thoughtful communication is more likely to garner a productive response.
2. Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say
Implication and tone are often hard to read in short messages and texts. Don’t hide the ball or beat around the bush. Be brief and clear.
3. Use Email for Longer Messages
Opt for email if a lot of detail is needed. As a rule of thumb, anything more than 1-2 short sentences is too long for text message communication. In those instances, email is more appropriate. Email is a more formal medium than text, and therefore is also more appropriate for serious subject matters. Texts contain shorthand and abbreviations because they are so often typed hurriedly. Texts are meant to be sent and received quickly. While this can be a great feature, avoid confusion by using another method if detail is required. Email, utilizing your lawyer to convey your message, or waiting for an opportunity like mediation may all be possibilities. Remember, the goal is for clear communication, and that may be done via a variety of avenues. Pick the right one for each message.
Typos and auto-fill can wreak havoc on your text messages. The faster you are going, the more likely for error. That error could change the tone or meaning of your message and only cause miscommunication. A potentially more serious impact is that you don’t slow down and really think thoughtfully about what you want to say and how you want to say it. Taking a moment to review your message carefully can help ensure that what you send meets your goals.
5. Track Everything
Tracked text messages can improve the content of the communication.
One thing you can always do to protect yourself is to track your messages automatically through a system like FamilyDocket. Not only will this system store your messages securely should you ever need to refer to them, but it also gives easy access to these messages to your lawyer or parenting facilitator if you wish. This can save you time and money. An added bonus? Tracking text messages improves communication.
Text messages are the primary way many of us stay in touch. Using text messages during and post-divorce often leads to healthy communication if they are tracked, thoughtful, and not overused for more intricate subjects.