Communicate with Care During a Divorce-The Written Word is Forever

By on June 29, 2012

During a divorce, communications with your spouse may get heated or even ugly. It has been my experience as a Chicago divorce attorney that most litigants benefit from utilizing guidelines and maintaining a professional tone in their written communications with their soon to be ex. The goals are to minimize documents that may be used in court, reduce stressful exchanges and improve dialogue.

Here are some rules to keep in mind before you hit the send button on your next email or text.

Rule Number 1:  Set up communication guidelines. Utilize the assistance of your family law attorneys if necessary. Not every couple divorcing needs guidelines – some are able to navigate communications. However, guidelines are useful when the emails and texts become a source of conflict. Decide on when and how often emails will be exchanged. For example, establish a weekly or twice weekly email exchange for household matters or non-emergency issues regarding the children. Your spouse can send on Monday and you respond on Thursday. Include multiple issues in your correspondence. This will aid in eliminating a flood of emails. Without the guidelines, you can get in a habit of arguing online or wondering when you may receive a response to your inquiry. Minimizing emails should also assist in reducing the daily stress experienced when dealing with divorce issues. Now every time you hear the ping of your email you won’t get the feeling of dread as to …now what? Each side knows the communication ground rules. Use texts for simple messages – not substantive communication. Such as, please pack a sweatshirt or running 5 minutes late. Keep those to a minimum too.

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Rule Number 2: Be professional. Be brief. Take the emotion out. It is easy to be reactive when receiving an email that you perceive as negative. However, take a deep breath and try to craft an email with a business tone. Keeping your emails professional and not engaging in an argument will assist in reducing your stress and may improve communications. Clearly, your spouse may or may not respond with the same kindness. Maintain your mature conduct. Further, your spouse may be trying to get a reaction from you – don’t allow it to happen. It will feel better to maintain control.

Read your spouse’s email and then close it. Do not attempt a response yet. Wait. Allow some time to pass. Watch Mad Men or go for a run. You will be in a better frame of mind and it will reduce the likelihood of an emotional response.

Be brief. Focus on the issues. Remove the editorial comments. You can make your emails more professional and less emotional by omitting the words, always, never, as usual, you should, any name calling or disparaging remarks. Add words and phrases such as; thank you, when you have a moment and please.

Exercising restraint shows you are rational and cooperative. It will foster better communications with your spouse now and in the future – especially important if you have a family together. Also, if your spouse does send an incriminating email and you respond in kind – don’t bother sending it to your divorce attorney – they will be unable to use it without including your response. Take the higher road. Now, read Rule 3.

Rule Number 3. Read before you send. Wait 12 hours. Read again. Now send. There is a saying in litigation, “You can’t un-ring a bell.”  This theory holds true for emails and texts. Once sent you can never take it back. You may be a reasonable, rational person 99% of the time – but in a dark moment you chose to send a scathing email. We have all done it – and regretted it. Most likely, this will be used as Exhibit A in your divorce litigation to paint you as an unreasonable and irrational person. Opposing counsel will love it. The judge doesn’t know you and the person that you are outside of the litigation. The judge knows evidence and your email just became part of your spouse’s case. Don’t build their case for them. It is rather humbling to see an embarrassing email penned by you splashed across a power point presentation in the court room.

Remember, you are on the road to a better life and you can start with better communications.


Michael C. Craven is a well-known divorce attorney in Chicago, CPA and a partner of the law firm, Beermann Pritikin Mirabelli Swerdlove LLP located in the Chicago area. He is highly respected among other divorce attorneys, judges and his clients. He also holds a Master of Tax Law Degree (LLM). For more information about his services, contact Michael at [email protected] or at Divorce Lawyers Chicago

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Communicate with Care During a Divorce-The Written Word is Forever