So, obviously, talking to your husband during your divorce isn’t the easiest thing in the world. In fact, in my experience, it’s one of the hardest.
Tensions are high. Trust is low. It’s hard, sometimes, to keep your cool, even if you’re generally really good at that sort of thing. You’re not alone.
Communication is one of the most difficult things for many women through divorce or custody cases. It’s also one of the most important, because it can come back to haunt you in your case.
Communication in Text Messages, Email, and Voicemail
Keep in mind that many forms of electronic communication are stored and kept, and can be recovered during your case. If you’ve typed something out, whether in a text message or an email, you’ve created a written document. It’s hard to determine tone sometimes in these kinds of messages, too, so, to add insult to injury, it may be difficult to determine what exactly you meant – or the spirit in which you said it could easily be misinterpreted in retrospect.
And you’re probably angry. And frustrated. And very, very worried about your children’s well being and development, both now and in the future. Every mom knows how difficult and traumatic a divorce can be on children, and helping them weather this transition probably wears on you tremendously. If you don’t get the type of response you want or expect from your child’s father, it’s natural to feel some not very nice things about him and his role as a father.
You need to be careful, though. You’re creating a written record, and, if you lose your temper or say something nasty, you’re handing him ammunition. You’re giving him a way to make his case stronger, and to make you look bad. In the courtroom, it’s hard to say that the way you were feeling was understandable or that you were under a lot of stress; judges don’t see the emotion behind your case, and, frankly, it seems to almost always make them uncomfortable. For your case to be as strong as possible, you’re going to need to make sure you behave coolly, calmly, and respectfully, no matter what your child’s father throws at you.
I know. It Isn’t easy. If he’s a jerk, it’s only too easy to get mad, too. To yell. To cry. I know – trust me, I get it. But, still, it generally doesn’t resonate well in court, no matter how justifiable your feelings. A lot of times, I find I can’t even use recordings that I’d like to use because my client (even though she often doesn’t realize it) winds up sounding at least as bad as her husband. If she’s dripping with sarcasm or scathing about his inability to put the kid’s needs first, it can make her appear demanding, nasty, or vindictive.
Like my mom always used to say, you definitely catch more flies with honey than vinegar. And no matter how he treats you, for the sake of your case and the judges and guardians ad litem and others who may one day wind up listening to your voicemails, or reading your texts or emails, you’re going to want to keep it as civil and professional as humanly possible.
In many of my cases, things fall apart to the point where one or both spouses starts recording things – conversations, visitation turnovers, whatever.
I can’t imagine how difficult this must be for you, really I can’t. I know, if I were in your shoes, I’d be pretty angry about it. But you can’t let your temper get the best of you, or you let him win. He can record those conversations (there’s very little, after all, you can do to stop it). They may also be admissible.
If your husband is recording you, remember that this may very well get into court. The surest way of making sure it WON’T get into court, though, is by refusing to say anything at all while the camera is present. Don’t say, “If you want to get anything from me, you’ll have to go through my lawyer!” Say nothing. Nothing at all. Leave the room. Get in your car and drive away. Say the barest necessary minimums to get your kids, if it’s a visitation exchange, or drop them off. “Have a good week with daddy. I love you.” That’s fine. But much more than that? Keep your lips sealed. And watch your bod language, too, because, after all, in a video it all shows. Flicking him off? Rolling your eyes? Huffing and puffing? I get it. It’s frustrating. But it also makes you look like a word that begins with B. Even if it’s justified under the circumstances, keep in mind that the judge won’t SEE the circumstances, he’ll only see the video. And these types of things rarely look that reasonable when you just see the video itself.
How do I talk to my husband during our divorce or custody case?
It’s not easy, but the answer is pretty clear. Talk to your husband the way you’d talk to a coworker or business associate – someone who could fire you. Be courteous, be professional, and never let your temper get in the way.
That way, anything that he records, or that he has a record of because the communication was electronic, won’t put you in a bad light. If you’re just saying, “I’d like to set aside some time to talk about ___,” or, “I’m so sorry, I wish I could be more accommodating, but I can’t substitute this weekend’s visitation for next, since we are going to Florida for my cousin’s wedding,” you sound compassionate, considerate, and reasonable. Just because he asks for something (or demands something) doesn’t mean you have to comply. But you DO have a responsibility to poised and respectful, just like you’d be at work.
It’s difficult to do, but not impossible – and it’s pretty critical if you’re facing a divorce or custody case. Do your best to not take the bait. For more information or to schedule a one on one consultation with one of our divorce and custody attorneys, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.