Years ago family law attorneys saw e-mail and texting as a tool that could increase communication between battling parents. The technology of e-mail seemed like the perfect tool for a family law attorney dealing with divorce and dissolution of marriage cases, paternity cases and custody cases involving lots of conflict and often- times physical abuse, mental health and substance abuse issues. I found myself, along with other domestic and family law attorneys and family courts, instructing clients to e-mail the other parent to avoid fights or confrontations in front of the children and to document certain notices or communication with the other parent, or lack thereof, regarding important or special events or information about the children. Since then we worked with clients on keeping emotions out of e-mails and sticking to the facts on hand. Sometimes they followed the advice, other times not so much.
But things have changed. Now with the addition of texting and instant messaging, e-mail is no longer used to avoid fights and to document an occasional important communication; it has become the main form of communication. The number of pages of electronic communication between parents has become so voluminous we no longer print in hard copy each exchange, and it’s not just a matter of limiting how many trees we kill, which I tell you would be quite a few. Although I acknowledge successful business relationships can be conducted strictly on line and in some cases a text or e-mail can get information passed along faster, using e-mail and texting as your sole form of communication with your child’s other parent is dangerous. Not only will you or your attorney spend hours and hours trying to trace and re-trace e-mail strings and conversations, the end result is often a message that fails to tell the whole story.
Just as example, I recently prepared for a trial with over 2,000 pages of e-mails, and while I franticly tried to find e-mail after e-mail to refute or rebut the e-mail after e-mail presented by the other side on direct exam, I found myself thinking how the technology of e-mail has made things harder, both for my client and for me. It is better practice that emails should be as fact based as possible. It is not the time or place to argue who did what, express how you feel, or gain catharsis from a difficult situation. You can’t bring a child into this world via the internet, so don’t try to raise a child via the internet.