The Problem With Text Messages

Texting is the most widely-used and frequently used app on a smartphone, with 97% of Americans using it at least once a day.  Not impressed…Over 6 billion text messages are sent in the U.S. each day, making it the most common cell phone activity for more than 80% of adults.

Everyone sends text messages.  They are quick, fast, and effective, especially when a full phone call is not necessary. For all of the benefits of texting, there are serious downsides.  Texting is more impersonal than a real phone call.  It is much easier to deliver bad news or to say something in anger via a text than it is in person or on the phone.  Also, you tend to respond quickly and without thinking.  This can have serious consequences.  Unlike a voice conversation that can only be recalled but go away immediately, text messages never go away.  They can be stored and saved in perpetuity.  If you are involved in a family law case, expect they will also be submitted as evidence to the Judge.

Almost every case that comes through my office has a file on my server to save text messages sent to me by my client.  They may be related to a verbally abusive spouse, messages sent to the children, messages sent to new romantic partners, or what is most common, text message exchanges sent by a party who was upset and sent the messages in anger.

So what can you do?  You could stop sending text messages to the other party.  If your case does not involve children, this is the best advice.  There is nothing you need to tell your former spouse that cannot be sent via email.

If you have children, texting is a great way to communicate with the other parent without actually having a real discussion.  I always suggest email communication or other co-parenting message system for all communications. If you must continue to use text messages to co-parent keep the following in mind:

  1. Never send a text message when you are angry or upset.  Wait until you have taken some time to calm down before you respond.
  2. Never text with the other parent if you have had more than one drink.
  3. Always draft your text messages as if you were copying the Judge in your case on the text (this goes for emails too.)  You should expect that every text message you send will be read by a judge one day.

The reason email is a better option (especially email sent from a computer) is the extra steps required to send the email.  Email also gives you the opportunity to read and review your words before they are sent out.  Another reason is the ability to blind copy your attorney or other third parties on an email without notifying the recipient.  This way you can copy your attorney if necessary.  Speaking of you attorney, sometimes when you have a sensitive topic or situation, it helps to have your attorney ghost write the email for you.  This way you can be sure that you are communicating the information without including any anger or emotion.  It also allows your attorney to control the flow of information from you to the other party.

If you have trouble controlling your emotions when speaking with the other parent, then you should consider using Our Family Wizard for all communications.  The program has a built in Tone Meter to identify and flag emotionally charged sentences within your message.

Text messaging has changed the way we communicate as humans.  It makes conversation more efficient and streamlined.  However, with these advances come the downsides and a qualified family law attorney can assist you in navigating these waters.

Feel free to contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

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