Bite Your Tongue: What You Say Can Be Used Against You in Family Law Cases

“Dance like no one is watching, and e-mail like it may one day be read aloud in a deposition.” I couldn’t agree more with this viral meme: following this seemingly glib statement can likely save you a lot of headaches in the long run in your family law dispute.

In family law cases, what you say to your ex can often come back to haunt you, particularly in custody cases. I have watched as a parent puts far too much in writing in a heated text or e-mail exchange, only to have it introduced against them as an exhibit in court. For example, when a parent consistently is late to drop-offs and pick-ups, or frequently misses visitation, written communication demonstrating their tardiness or absence is usually one of the first things opposing counsel will introduce.

How can you make sure that your own statements aren’t used against you in court? The following suggestions come from Dr. Michele Nelson, one of the leading  psychologists and custodial evaluators in Virginia.

7 Ways to Avoid Escalating Conflict Into a War of Words in Your Family Law Case

Here are a few suggestions.

1.     Don’t call, send an e-mail, or text when you’re upset or angry. The same goes for any social media post. Use polite language, and be brief in your communications. (Your messages should not take up more than one screen; if they do, edit them down.)

2.     Limit written communication to one issue. Simple messages can avoid confusion and misunderstanding.

3.     Leave the past behind. Don’t bring up past transgressions or disagreements in present conversations. Keep your message focused on the current problem.

4.     Don’t make demands. Coming off as demanding or bossy in an e-mail can be a surefire way to start an argument. Along those same lines, remember that it isn’t your role to judge the other parent during electronic—or any other—communications.

5.     Be mindful of the number of text messages and e-mails you send. This is particularly important if you have a high-conflict relationship with your ex.

6.     Keep it professional. Treat your ex-spouse or partner the same way you would a co-worker. This is critical to maintaining an amicable, functioning relationship.

7.     Finally, if you aren’t sure about the e-mail or text, don’t send it. Once you hit the send button, you can’t take back your words. If you’re feeling uncertain whether to send the message, run the communication by someone you trust for feedback, or come back to it and re-evaluate the message when you’re feeling calmer.

For more information about any of the above, or for any family law, criminal law, or personal injury matter, please contact me at 804-320-6600 or by e-mail at jbaez@hmalaw.com.

This post is provided as an educational service and should not be construed as legal advice. Readers in need of assistance with a legal matter should retain the services of competent counsel.