"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me."
Whoever said that probably never went through a divorce. As your lawyer probably will caution throughout the divorce process, words can hurt in any number of ways. Finding the right ones (or refraining from using the wrong ones) when talking to a spouse can be difficult.
The following DOs and DONT's are helpful when dealing with spousal communication.
- DON'T say anything to your spouse that can be later used against you in a court of law. This includes leaving angry voicemails, writing hurtful letters, or sending hostile texts or emails. All instantaneous communication devices are dangerous for persons going through a divorce, because words exchanged in the heat of the moment can be recorded and saved. For example, your spouse may be late in dropping off the children for a time-sharing exchange. Texting, “If you don’t bring the kids now I am going to kill you” is unwise. Your spouse could easily save the text and use it as an exhibit in a petition for injunction for injunction against domestic violence. There is no way for the court to know whether a threatening text is said in jest. Before sending that text, before sending that email, stop and think about how it will sound if read aloud in a court of law.
- DO communicate with your spouse on all matters involving your minor children. When going through a divorce, some spouses are tempted to withhold information, such as information regarding children’s doctor’s appointments, sporting events and parent-teacher meetings. Do not withhold this information. Pursuant to Florida Statute 61.13, one of the factors that the court is required to consider when determining parental responsibility and time-sharing is “The demonstrated capacity of each parent to communicate with and keep the other parent informed of issues and activities regarding the minor child, and the willingness of each parent to adopt a unified front on all major issues when dealing with the child." By communicating appropriately with your spouse regarding the children, you are demonstrating your capacity to live up to the standard for shared parenting set by Florida law.
- DON'T use your children as messengers. Using children as messengers puts a terrible emotional burden on them that they are unequipped to shoulder. It is not the children’s job to let the other parent know about a doctor’s appointment or a parent-teacher meeting. The court considers using children as messengers to be grossly inappropriate. Another factor in Florida Statute 61.13 that the court considers when determining parental responsibility and time-sharing is “The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to determine, consider, and act upon the needs of the child as opposed to the needs or desires of the parent.” Using a child as a messenger demonstrates that the parent does not have the capacity to put the child's needs first. This is especially important when a judge considers the best interest of the children.
- DO keep your guard up. If there are no children involved in the divorce, it may not be necessary to talk at all. As Euripides wisely opined, "Silence is true wisdom’s best reply." When in doubt, refrain from talking with your spouse until you have discussed the matter with counsel.
If you have a specific question, your Coral Springs or Parkland divorce attorney can guide you on the best course of action regarding spousal communication.