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Help! I can't send a text or email without my former spouse getting angry or lashing out.

Sound familiar? A frequent problem between parents communicating about children is their inability to communicate. What do all my high conflict custody cases have in common? The inability to communicate. The parents cannot talk to each other, haven’t talked to each other, or simply don’t know how to be nice to each other. So, work on communication to help reduce conflict in your family. How? Follow this simple 10 step checklist by Bill Eddy before you send emails or text messages to the parent of your children.

  1. Is it brief? Shorter the better.
  2. Is it informative? Say what you need to say and nothing more.
  3. Is it friendly? A simple hello, thank you, and no thank you are good.
  4. Is it firm? Give deadlines and be clear about what you will and will not agree to.
  5. Does it contain any advice? Are you telling the other parent how to deal with a problem? Telling someone else how to do something almost always triggers a defensive response.
  6. Does it contain any admonishments? Are you speaking to the other parent like a child? Are you telling them what they are doing wrong with their life? Do you really need to pass judgment via text or email?
  7. Does it contain any apologies? When dealing with a high conflict personality know that your apology will likely be used against you. So, while in general apologies are good they aren’t so good when they will be used against you. Use apologies in person and not via text or email.
  8. How do you think the other person will respond? How will the other person react to your email or text? Read your communication and then think about that before sending.
  9. Is there anything you would take out, add or change? Are you saying more than you need to say? Have you repeated yourself? Most clients tend to say more than necessary so read for providing too much information.
  10. Would you like to hear my thoughts about it? This is the point where you ask someone else to read your email or text before sending. Get their input or advice. A neutral third party is best but even your mother, friend, or co-worker can read for purposes of determining whether your email is overly hostile or could be taken the wrong way. Ask for advice and then revise your communication accordingly. As attorneys we would love to see communications to the other side before they go out, so we can prevent any damage before it occurs.