Communication for Separated Parents

Posted on May 23, 2018 by Katie Carter

Communication is tough for separated parents. Even in the best situations, it isn’t easy, and there’s a fair bit of tension. Discussing even mundane things – like appointments for check ups, prescriptions, school events or pictures – can easily become escalated, and can cause communication to break down even further.

There’s often the assumption that the party with primary custody (or, in the case of shared custody, the parent who has the most time – or, you know, mom, just generally, without regard for the specifics of the situation that would allow dad to have equal access) has the responsibility to provide the child’s other parent (generally, dad) with ALL information related to the child. Rather than dad having any responsibility for communicating with coaches, teachers, or others involved in the child’s life, he expects mom to round up all form of communication for him, and provide it to him on a silver platter.

If I had a dime for every time I had a mom say to me, “why can’t HE call the coach? I have to!” Moms often feel like they’re expected to gather up all that communication and provide it to their child’s father virtually immediately. It’s a lot of pressure, and it naturally leads to some resentment, annoyance, and difficulty.

I’m having trouble communicating with my child’s father. What should I do?

For separated families, communication is difficult – but incredibly important. Obviously, it’s in the child’s best interests to have parents who are informed about everything that is going on in the child’s life. That doesn’t mean, though, that the responsibility for getting and sharing information falls solely on one party’s shoulders. It doesn’t.

These kinds of issues come up all the time, and I’ve heard judges say again and again that both parents are responsible for getting information that is readily available to each. Only the information that comes exclusively to one parent – like, perhaps report cards or school pictures – that must be shared by the parent receiving it.

Part of good communication is setting up a reasonable standard through which it can be achieved. That’s where Our Family Wizard comes in.

Our Family Wizard is a communication tool that we often recommend to separated families, especially ones that are having trouble communicating. It’s a one stop shop; a place where you can save calendared information, scan and share information from schools or coaches, and even invite your attorney or Guardian ad litem to serve as a witness to your communications. It helps eliminate some of the “he said/she said” type drama that usually accompanies these types of cases, and simplifies a lot of the bigger problems we see. The latest version even includes software that helps you look at the tone of your communications, and soften where appropriate to help strengthen the relationship between you and your child’s father. It’s really pretty interesting stuff.

There are a couple of different subscription models; you can select one that will work best for you. Sure, it’s more expensive than text or email, but it’s got a much greater degree of functionality, too. I’ve spent hours pouring through voluminous text and email communications between my clients before; I know how bogged down you can get with this type of communication. Our Family Wizard is a lot easier to navigate, so you’ll spend less time fighting (and searching through your backlog of messages to review what you said about a certain line item) and more time discussing issues. It’s a great tool.

What if we want to communicate a different way?

The most important thing is that you and your child’s father buy in to a certain method of communication. I’ve had cases where judges and Guardians ad litem strongly recommend Our Family Wizard (I’m not sure there’s another really similar program out there), but it would certainly be possible to communicate in a different way, too. If you wanted to share a Google calendar, or something like that, you certainly could. You can sync calendars on your iPhones, too, or even Outlook or something else similar. It have all the messaging functionality that Our Family Wizard has, but you can make it work for you.

In many of my cases, my clients designate a specific way to communicate – say, via email only – about issues related to the children. It can be time consuming and distracting to have to answer constant incoming text messages (they can really feel like an overwhelming barrage at times), and it may be easier to just designate email for communications related to custody and visitation.

It’s totally up to you, but if communication is already complicated, I definitely recommend that you at least consider Our Family Wizard. It’ll make your life a lot easier.

For more information about coparenting as a separated parent or for information about Our Family Wizard, give our office a call and schedule a meeting with one of our attorneys at 757-425-5200.