Cincinnati Family Law & Divorce Blog: What can parents do when they are unable to have productive email communication?
What can parents do when they are unable to have productive email communication?
I was recently involved in a collaborative case where the parents were unable to have productive email communication. There were complaints that emails went unanswered and that emails were accusatory. There are many books and articles written on effective communication between parents following a divorce, and there are tools such as Our Family Wizard that monitors the tone of emails.
With this particular couple, we wanted some simple rules, and we incorporated those rules into their Shared Parenting Plan. The rules were similar to the following:
- Upon receiving an email, send an acknowledgment of receipt, even if it is to indicate that it was received and a reply will be forthcoming.
- Provide a response within a reasonable timeframe, but generally within 24-48 hours.
- When sending an email to report on something that a child said don’t assume that it is true. Say something such as “I’m sharing information with you that may or may not be accurate.” Ask questions but don’t accuse.
- When responding to an email such as this, avoid defensiveness. Children may say things to one parent, thinking it is something that the parent wants to hear, or due to anger with a parent. Provide a factual response and propose a reasonable course of action to address the issue.
- Avoid sending an email for the sole purpose of complaining. Attack the problems and concerns at hand. Do not blame each other.
And, of course, apply the most basic rule of pausing before sending an email. Read it out loud. Understand that every email has the potential to create a conflict. Conflicts are not healthy for anyone, including your children. Send it only after you have carefully considered the likely response.