by: Marcia Mavrides
During the Massachusetts divorce process when emotions can run very high, the professionals involved, such as the judges, court investigators, attorneys, and therapists, can tamp down the occasional brush fires. However, when the legal part of the divorce is done, most of these professionals phase out of your life and pocketbook. You may feel alone and unempowered to effectively deal with the divorced co-parent, who has made it clear that he/she will continue to make your life a living hell, or at least more complicated than need be. By their very nature, some people are just difficult to deal with or basically unhappy. Their inability to control themselves oftentimes manifests itself in an attack on you! If you understand this premise, it will be easier for you to effectively address this personality type and move ahead with solutions and the results you are seeking. At a minimum, these suggestions will create a documented history for any future legal action you may feel compelled to take in the best interests of your children.
Recognize the Behavior.
First, recognize that the difficult co-parent likely lacks self-awareness and therefore lacks an ability to change his/her behavior. This person may have a diagnosed or undiagnosed personality disorder, which means that, by definition, he/she lacks self-awareness and therefore unable to change his/her behavior. Since you have no control over this co-parent’s behavior, you must stop trying to control it, which is futile action anyway. Therefore, just recognize that this co-parent has an inability to clearly, concisely and positively communicate with you and then you can work on how to get around this impediment. Some people describe this as taking the high road. This brings you to Tip 2.
In-Person Communications May be Harmful.
Second, avoid in-person communications altogether with this difficult co-parent and use email to communicate parenting matters. This change in the mode of communication effectively creates a process in which both parties must weigh the words he/she uses, as this written memorialization could be used as evidence in any future litigation. Judges look negatively on a party who communicated in a disrespectful, uncooperative, emotional, negative and unproductive manner. When you write something, you must take the time to review, rewrite and weed out any words that can be construed as inappropriate. If you’re not sure, have a friend or someone you trust review the email before you press the irreversible “send” button. This email communication effectively creates a documented history of the quality of each party’s co-parenting communications and failure by one or the other could be construed as an inability to co-parent effectively. An inability to co-parent effectively can cause a parent to lose parenting time or decision-making authority. And again, although these emails could be used as evidence in any future litigation, the goal is to calm down the situation and move these necessary communications to a peaceful resolution of a matter.
Keep it Simple.
Third, your communications with your co-parent must be simple, clear, and timed so that the response by the co-parent must be timely made with no excuse that he/she did not have enough time to respond or did not understand the matter. Do not write more than a few sentences on a single topic for each email. Be respectful in your opening and closing, such as, “Hi (co-parent’s name), I am confirming that I will be picking up Johnny from his soccer game this afternoon. Thanks. Best, (co-parent). If there is a pressing deadline on a matter that requires confirmation by the other co-parent, be sure to address the issue as early as possible and follow up with simple emails that mention the deadline date. If the co-parent does not respond, then you have a paper trail of non-response. Also, if the issue is important, and you have a co-parent who has a history of non-response, then end your email with something such as, “If I don’t hear back from you via email by (date/day), then I will assume you agree to my pick up of Johnny from his soccer game”.
By keeping each email simple and not a rambling bunch of confusing issues, you have effectively communicated directly, clearly and succinctly, which in turn requires a succinct, clear response from the other co-parent. If he or she does not respond accordingly, then at least you’ve established a record that reflects positively on you. Also, if you place a reasonable deadline on any matter/actions you plan to take, such as picking up Johnny from his soccer game, the co-parent cannot claim this matter/action was unexpected and/or not agreed in advance. Of course, if the co-parent refuses to agree to a rationally based parenting matter, then you can use this and other emails to build your case that he/she is an uncooperative obstructionist. Moreover, an uncooperative obstructionist is not parenting in the best interests of a child!
For over 34 years, Marcia Mavrides has been a recognized leader in the divorce and family law community throughout Boston and Massachusetts. To speak with a lawyer about divorce, paternity, or child custody matter, contact Mavrides Law in Boston, Newton, or Wellesley, MA. To schedule an in-depth initial consultation, call 617-723-9900 or contact the firm at firstname.lastname@example.org
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