Oftentimes, I have clients who have shared custody with their ex, yet due to various reasons, cannot communicate with them. Just recently, a client explained how for months he tried to communicate with his ex-wife, to no avail. She rarely returned his calls or emails. When his children were sick and went to the doctor, she didn’t inform him and was left to learn of this from his children. When he tried to discuss splitting the cost of braces for his daughter, again she would not respond to any of his communications.
I always tell clients, whether they like it or not, co-parenting is about communication. Even when you have separated (or especially when you have separated), communication is vital if you share children. Communication is crucial to successful co-parenting. You can minimize communication, but you should never eliminate it. As co-parents, you’ll need ongoing communication to be able to coordinate your child’s life.
So, what happens when your ex stops communicating with you? What can you do? Consider these 3 tips I recommend to my clients:
- Document all efforts to communicate. Written communication is the best form of communication when there is conflict in a case. It leaves a “paper trail” of evidence. If admitted into evidence, no one can deny what was said in a written communication. A text or email can also show the date and time a message was sent. To preserve a text message as evidence, take a screenshot of the sent text message. Make sure the picture shows who the text is sent to and the date and time it was sent. This will show the lack of response from your co-parent and that you are exhausting all appropriate options.
- If you’re not happy with a judge reading it, don’t say it! I constantly remind my clients, to plan their communication as if a judge will read it in the future. Do not curse, speak harshly, or threaten the other person. On the other hand, you do not need to be overly nice. Instead, aim for calm, resolute, and assertive. Take all the emotions out of the communication and get right to the point as if you’re communicating with a co-worker. Also, it can be tempting to voice your frustration on Facebook, Snapchat, or some other social media platform. DON’T. I encourage you not to use social media when you are having issues with your ex. Social media posts can be used as evidence, and in extreme cases, you can be charged with cyberstalking for excessive harassing social media posts about the other parent. Anything you say on social media can be potentially read by a judge and it is not uncommon for attorneys to request access to your social media accounts as part of custody litigation. It is important that a judge not see anything that will cause them to be unsympathetic to you and your case.
- Don’t have others become involved. I realize when you’re exhausted trying to make headway with your ex, you reach out to a friend or family member to intervene on your behalf. However, sometimes this can backfire. Emotions may begin to run high and the next thing you know this person may threaten your ex. If this happens, those threats could be linked back to you. If you are going to involve another person, make sure you trust he or she will not escalate the conflict.
If the communication breakdown persists and becomes worse, you should consider speaking with an attorney as soon as possible. If there is a custody order already in place, the attorney may file a motion for an order to show cause against your ex for not obeying a court order. Even if the breakdown of communication may not need attorney intervention, there may be other facts and circumstances that require legal advice. Remember, oftentimes a high-conflict ex will stop communicating to incite bad behavior on your part. Don’t fall for it and take proactive steps instead.
The Divorce Coach for Men