A common issue that comes up for our clients during the divorce process is how to have constructive, rather than destructive, communications with their spouse. The clients of partner Sarah Zimmerman found her advice on this topic so useful that they asked her to write it down. Here are Sarah’s tips for emailing and texting with your spouse if you’re separated or going through a divorce:
Take Your Time. It’s a common misconception among divorcing couples that you need to respond instantaneously to any email or text from your spouse. Unless there are special circumstances that make an immediate reply necessary, it’s better to slow down and take your time to draft a thoughtful response. Usually, the content of your message is much more important than the time stamp.
Set Boundaries. If communicating with your soon-to-be ex is upsetting or overwhelming, set some reasonable boundaries. For example, you can set up a dedicated email address for communicating with your spouse, and check it just once or twice a day. You can also let your spouse know ahead of time that you often won’t be able to respond for twenty-four hours (or whatever’s reasonable under the circumstances), so you don’t feel pressured to give an instantaneous response.
Stick to the Issue at Hand. It’s tempting when you’re emailing a spouse to try to “create a record” of everything your spouse has ever done wrong. But communication will be more effective if you avoid piling on and simply stick to the issue at hand. When you’re emailing about the kids, always keep your focus on what’s most important – the best interests of your children.
Think “What Would Sarah Say?” I always tell clients to think of me when writing to their spouses and, before sending anything, to always ask themselves: “What would Sarah say?” When drafting your message, it’s helpful to think about what your most trusted advisor or someone you consider a role model would say in your situation. As much as you want to send a zinger to your spouse, if you’d be embarrassed to show your message to someone you trust and respect, or you wouldn’t want to see it on the front page of The Washington Post, it’s probably not a good idea to send it to your spouse.
Of course, every situation is different, and your email and communication strategy will need to be tailored to your particular circumstances. When in doubt, consult with a trusted advisor, like your family law attorney.