Parents who travel with their minor child without the other parent should have a travel consent form signed by the other parent or a court order signed that confirms you have the right to leave the country without the consent of the other parent. Make sure any requests for authorization to travel is done well in advance to avoid stress.
The government of Canada website recommends that you have the following documents when traveling with minor children:
A copy of the child’s birth certificate;
A letter of authorization signed by the parent who is not travelling, containing their address and telephone number; and,
A photocopy of the non-accompanying parent’s signed passport or national identity card.
While a consent letter and photocopy of the the non-accompanying parent’s signed passport or national identity card is not a legal requirement for children’s travel outside of Canada it may be requested by immigration authorities when entering or leaving a foregoing country, and an airline agent or Canadian officials when re-entering Canada.
If the parents are separated or divorced, and share custody of the child, the parent travelling with the child should carry copies of the legal custody documents.
If the parents are separated or divorced and one of them has sole custody of the child, the letter of authorization may be signed by that parent only and they should bring a copy of the custody papers.
If one of the child’s parents is deceased, the travelling parent should bring a copy of the death certificate.
Unfortunately, if you cannot produce these documents could be delays or even a refusal to allow you to enter or exit a country.
The best source of information on the consent letter and other documents required can be found HERE.
What happens if someone refuses to sign a travel document?
If traveling outside of Canada children require their own passport. You can apply for a passport for your child if you have custody or are the legal guardian. You will need to have some documentation such as a birth certificate or an adoption order. However, if the children have another guardian, they will have to sign the application as well.
If the other parent refuses to sign then a judge can give you a court order for permission to sign the passport application alone and/or give you a court order stating that you may travel with the child without the other parent’s authorization. Keep in mind that the courts are busy during the holiday season. Applications for travel should be made as far in advance as is possible given the circumstances.
How can a lawyer help?
If you have questions or need assistance with holiday travel documents for the holidays but don’t know where to start, a family lawyer can assist you through the process. To find out how one of our family lawyers could assist you, contact us.
A significant challenge for most separated or divorced parents is determining a parenting schedule that works for everyone during the holidays. It is a unique issue for each family as every family has their own respective values and traditions during the holidays. The holiday parenting schedule is often further complicated by extended family’s expectations during the holiday season. Issues around the holiday season also tend to be emotionally driven and worsened by stress.
Please don’t wait until December to determine the holiday schedule
Chances are if you are reading this, you’ve already at least thought about your holiday parenting schedule, or perhaps you have already argued about it. Please consider raising the issue of holiday time well before December to ensure that both parents have an opportunity to consider these issues without the pressure and stress of the upcoming holidays. Settling these arrangements well in advance also allows parents to make scheduling arrangements for holiday celebrations and travel if necessary. For example, a very common disagreement is that extended families live far away requiring travel by one or both parents for visits during the holiday season. These arrangements need to be made in advance.
What to do now if you don’t have a holiday parenting schedule?
Hopefully you have an agreement or court order that specifies holiday time and both parents are abiding by the arrangements and there are no extenuating circumstances.
If you don’t have an agreement or a court order that specifies holiday time, someone is not abiding by the court order, or there are special circumstances this year then you should know that December is an exceptionally busy time for the courts. Therefore, effort by both parties should be made to discuss and hopefully resolve any holiday related issues outside of court. You can try to discuss this directly with the other parent.
Keep in mind that the holiday season is a time to connect with family. When it comes to children of separated or divorced parents this usually means an opportunity to connect with both sides of the family. There will likely need to be some negotiation and ultimately compromise to determine what is best for the children.
You’ve tried everything and can’t agree?
Often parents come to see lawyers because they have tried and been unsuccessful in resolving these issues directly with the other parent. Communication between separated and divorced parents is not always easy. It may be that you need the assistance of a lawyer or a mediator to assist with these emotionally fueled conversations. Or it may be that you need to have a conversation with a lawyer who can help explain the law and what your options are.
How can a lawyer help?
If you have questions about this holiday season or want to develop an ongoing parenting schedule for the holidays but don’t know where to start, a family lawyer can assist you through the process. To find out how one of our family lawyers could assist you, contact us for a free initial consultation.
I recently received some articles about how casual dating apps, like Tinder, have apparently led to a boom in unplanned pregnancies, often where the people dating are not yet in a serious relationship. So, legally speaking, what happens if a casual relationship leads to pregnancy?
Child support obligations will kick in unless it can be shown that the person being asked for child support is not the biological father and has not assumed the role of the parent. It does not matter if the relationship was only a few hours old and the pregnancy was unplanned.
What if the payor parent is already financially responsible for other children when the unplanned child is on the way? By law that is not supposed to be an excuse to pay less support for additional children. Such cases have come before the Alberta courts and their response was basically that the younger children should not be financially penalized because they have older half-siblings.
However, a lower level of child support for the new children might still be justified on the notion that the payor parent truly is stretched too thin to pay the normal level of child support for them. Such an argument requires thorough preparation to have a chance at success, and one should definitely see a lawyer about making it.
Pregnancies from casual/short-term relationships generally do not lead to an obligation to support the other parent per se whereas an obligation of child support can increase or even create a spousal support obligation if the parties have cohabited for a long time before separation.
However, such unplanned pregnancies can drive down any existing spousal or partner support obligations that either parent may have towards former partners. To put it simply, child support trumps spousal support. For specific advice on your situation, please contact legal counsel.
For the first few years of a child’s life, the courts usually take the view that, while it is important for the child to form bonds with both parents, the mother is usually the primary caregiver and so the child should mostly live with mom during those years unless the parents have agreed otherwise. The father will usually receive something called “reasonable and generous parenting time” which means that he will be able to see the child as often as he can with everyone being reasonable. If there are disagreements about what this means, then the court can be asked to impose a more detailed parenting arrangement. In any case, the father can often get incrementally more parenting time such that the child is spending half of his time with the father by his early teens. You can find an overview of how courts decide parenting time in this post.
What is often forgotten is that the father of a child who was conceived through a casual, short-term relationship could have the same parenting rights as the father of a child conceived from a long-term relationship. In practice, achieving this is often difficult because the father in question will often have stayed away from the child, either of his own will or due to the mother’s wishes, for a significant part of the child’s early years. However, if the father does want to be a father to the child and gets appropriate legal advice so that an unfavourable parenting status quo does not develop, then regular and meaningful parenting time between the father and the child can usually be achieved.
Of course, the father in that situation may wish to confirm that he really is the biological father first because if it turns out that he is not the biological father but has been acting as a parental figure for some time anyway, then he may remain obligated to pay child support for some time even if he chooses to stop acting as a parent to the child.
In making an agreement or order for care and time of children the parties and the court must consider the best interests of the child only. Under the Family Law Act, Division 1, Section 37(2), there is a specific list of factors to consider in determining the best interests of children. At subsection b on that list it states that the child’s views should be considered unless it would be inappropriate to consider them. Therefore, if it is determined that it is appropriate to consider the views of the child then the court may appoint someone to assess the views of a child in relation to a family law dispute. That person must be a family justice counselor, social worker or another person approved by the court and must be independent of the parties. However, practically speaking how does this happen?
There are different ways in which this evidence can be obtained. The most commonly used are the Views of the Child Report and the Voice of the Child Report. What’s the difference?
Voice of the Child Report (also referred to as a “Hear the Child Report”)
One of the most common ways of providing evidence of the child’s views to the court is to obtain a Voice of the Child Report. Individuals who produce these reports include both experienced family lawyers and mental health professionals who have received training and have developed a skill set for interviewing children. While they are qualified to interview children and relay the information they are not qualified to provide opinions or assess the views of a child. These reports are basically hearsay evidence designed to allow the child a voice in the decision of their parenting.
Views of the Child Report
A Views of the Child Report is a more in-depth report that provides opinion and assessment on the child’s views. Individuals who prepare these reports have the expertise to provide expert opinion evidence to the court. Most these individuals would prepare an extensive report commonly referred to as a section 211 or custody and access report.
However, keep in mind that they are simply one piece of evidence that the court considers when making a decision on the best interests of children.
If you want to discuss whether or not it’s appropriate to obtain a Voice of the Child Report or a Views of the Child Report please contact the experienced lawyers a Henderson Heinrichs LLP for a free initial consultation.
When is Filing a Consumer Proposal the Best Option for Debt?
Guest Post – Gareth Slocombe, CIRP, CPA-CA, Trustee
Separating spouses may experience debt problems due to numerous reasons:
Long term stress in a relationship;
Difficult family situation before and after a separation; and/or
Credit card and loan debt as a result of split families attempting to meet monthly expenses.
In addition to rising consumer debts, an equalization payment from one spouse to the other may be required as a result of the terms of separation.
As discussed in our previous post, some joint debts your spouse has agreed to pay, or has been ordered to pay by the court, are still your debts in the eyes of the lender. As such, you will still be liable for these debts if your spouse defaults.
In summary, you may be responsible for multiple debts following a separation. These debts may include joint debts, new debts incurred since separation, or potential debts arising from a default by your ex-spouse.
How to deal with debts following a separation
The first step in managing your debts is developing a realistic budget. This can be challenging for a number of reasons:
You may have been required to move to a new residence involving new and unforeseen costs including utilities, transportation, childcare expenses etc.;
Your household income may be substantially lower due to a loss of the income of your spouse that may or may not be made up for through maintenance or child support payments; and/or
You may now be required to pay maintenance and child support to your ex-spouse and have limited funds remaining to manage your own debts and ongoing living expenses.
Even with a realistic budget, it may not be possible to consistently meet your financial obligations.
While options such as consolidation loans may seem appealing, they are often just stopgap measures that do not sufficiently address the fact that outstanding debts are too high to manage. Ad hoc settlement agreements with creditors are also often unworkable since you must make lump sum settlement payments and deal with all creditors individually.
Filing a Consumer Proposal
Filing a consumer proposal is often a viable solution to many types of debt problems and has many advantages over other solutions.
To file a consumer proposal, you will first need assistance from a Licensed Insolvency Trustee.
Although circumstances can vary considerably, filing a consumer proposal is usually most appropriate for debtors who:
Owe less than $250,000 (excluding a home mortgage);
Cannot repay loans in full; and
Have a stable source of income.
The trustee will help you develop a plan that can substantially reduce your outstanding unsecured debt by more than 80% and consolidate payments into one interest- free monthly payment that you can manage.
One of the major benefits of a consumer proposal is that once you file, all collection efforts against you, including garnishments, stop immediately.
You will need only 51% of your creditors (calculated by dollar value) voting in favour of the proposal in order for it to be accepted and legally binding on all your unsecured creditors.
Benefits of a consumer proposal as a debt solution
In the context of a spousal separation, a consumer proposal has a number of benefits as a debt solution:
It will eliminate potential liability for joint debt obligations that your ex-spouse has agreed to take over but which he/she could default on in future.
It can include a debt owed by you as an equalization payment to your ex-spouse.
It can reduce your overall debts such that your future support and maintenance payments (which cannot be included in the proposal) become more manageable. This can ultimately benefit both you and your ex-spouse.
In many cases, it makes sense for both spouses to file separate consumer proposals to deal with their debts. However, it may be beneficial to file a joint consumer proposal if a majority of the debts to be compromised are owed jointly by you and your spouse and a workable agreement between you can be reached as to how much of the monthly proposal payment each of you will make.
There are many scenarios in which a consumer proposal filing may be the best option, however matters involving separating spouses can be complicated. It is important to contact a Licensed Insolvency Trustee to assess your debt situation and to advise you of your options.
*Gareth Slocombe is a member of the Canadian Association of Insolvency and Restructuring Professionals. He is a Licensed Insolvency Trustee and a Chartered Professional Accountant. You can learn more about Gareth and the services he provides by visiting his website at debthelpbc.ca.
As a follow up to Rain Henderson’s 2015 interview with News1130 discussing the Ashley Maddison breach, Michael Proskiw takes us through the grounds and requirements that must be satisfied before a Court will grant a divorce.
When will the Court Grant a Divorce?
There are grounds and requirements that must be satisfied before a Court will grant a divorce. Additionally, there are bars to divorce that, if present, may prevent the Court from granting a divorce.
Grounds and Requirements for Divorce
Marriage breakdown is the only ground for divorce and may be granted on a fault or no-fault basis. However, there are little to no consequences for causing the marriage’s breakdown. For example, if your spouse cheated on you, you will not have an increased chance of achieving a favourable outcome in property division, support payments, custody disputes, or other matters of similar ilk because of your spouse’s infidelity.
Marriage breakdown can be established by living separate apart for one year, or if adultery or cruelty occurs:
Living Separate and Apart
Living separate and apart is established where you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for one year immediately preceding the divorce judgment and are living apart at the time of your divorce proceeding.
Spouses can be said to be living separate and apart, even if they are living under the same roof, where there is a complete withdrawal from the performance of matrimonial duties and obligations:
Occupation of separate bedrooms
Absence of sexual relations
Little, if any, communication between the spouses
Eating meals separately
No social activities
Spouses do not perform domestic services for each other unless there is a contract for those services
Evidence of each indicia is beneficial in showing the Court that you have lived separate and apart for one year. However, it is not necessary to establish all six elements.
Adultery allows the divorce to proceed prior to the one year barrier. For example, if there is proof of adultery and it is not disputed by the adulterer, then the judge is required to grant the divorce. Note that only the spouse that did not commit the adultery can apply for divorce.
Cruelty also allows the divorce to proceed prior to the one year barrier. Cruelty is a ground for divorce if one spouse treats their spouse with physical or mental cruelty of such a kind that makes living together unbearable. Cruelty of such a kind only needs to occur once before a spouse may ask the Court for a divorce. Like adultery, only the spouse who did not commit the cruelty can apply for divorce.
Practically speaking, adultery and cruelty are seldom used as grounds for divorce anymore because divorce can be granted on a no-fault basis. As previously mentioned, the fact that one spouse may be a victim is not relevant in divorce proceedings. The only advantage of claiming adultery or cruelty is that you can avoid the one-year waiting period.
Bars to Divorce
There are three bars to divorce that may prevent the Court from granting a divorce: collusion, connivance, and condonation:
Collusion occurs if you and your spouse make an agreement to fabricate evidence in order to convince the Court to grant your divorce. For example, collusion would occur if you and your spouse claim that you have been living separate and apart for greater than one year, when you and your spouse have been living separate and apart for less than one year. Collusion is an absolute bar to divorce, which means spouses guilty of collusion will not be allowed to divorce.
Connivance is the process of encouraging the other spouse into actions that would result in a marriage breakdown. For example, connivance would occur if one spouse encouraged the other to commit adultery. Connivance is a discretionary bar to divorce, which means the Court still has the option of granting the divorce even though the spouses participated in connivance.
Condonation occurs when one spouse forgives the other for committing adultery or cruelty and the spouses continue or resume living together. Like connivance, condonation is a discretionary bar to divorce.
For more information about any aspect of divorce, please contact our Edmonton office.
Reducing Your Child Support Obligations Upon Loss of Employment in Alberta
Jobs can be difficult to maintain in this fickle economic climate in Alberta. If you have been laid off or fired and have ongoing child support obligations, then it may be possible to have the Court reduce your monthly payments.
The Calculation of Child Support Payments in Alberta
The quantum of your ongoing child support obligation is often calculated based on your income from the previous year. It is sensible to use your previous year of income because it is easy to calculate. However, this method of calculation is not fair for child support payors that have been fired or laid off and have experienced a decrease in income. In the Court of Appeal of Alberta’s decision in L. (R.E.) v. L. (S.M.), 2007 ABCA 169, the Court stated that:
“The Guidelines do not state that the past year’s income is the basis for calculating support. Section 16 could have but does not, define annual income as income stated on the previous year’s tax return… Reading section 16 with section 2(3) directs that for the Guidelines the most current information must be used. A court following this directive would end up with an estimate of the payor’s current annual income with an adjustment at year’s end once the actual income is known.”
Children are entitled to be supported as if the family were together. Because of this, the quantum of child support ought to be determined using the payor’s current year of income.
One of the objectives in Alberta’s Child Support Guidelines is to establish a fair standard of support for children that ensures that they benefit from the financial means of both parents. The Court of Appeal in the above noted case satisfies this objective by considering the payor’s ability to make the current payments. Child support must account for the financial means of the parent and if you have lost your job or have been laid off, then it may lead to a reduction of your child support obligations.
A Few Words About Financial Disclosure
It is important to note that you cannot have your child support obligations reduced if the Court decides that you have been intentionally unemployed or intentionally under-employed. If you are unemployed, then you need to provide an explanation for the unemployment. If you are under-employed, then you need to provide an explanation for that as well. An application to reduce your child support obligations is likely to be unsuccessful if a judge’s suspicion that you are intentionally unemployed or intentionally under-employed is coupled with your failure to provide reliable, accurate, timely, and complete financial information. It is necessary to keep all records of your attempts at gaining employment if you wish to pursue a reduction in child support payments.
Vary Your Child Support Payments
The quantum of your child support payments ought to change along with your current employment situation. If you have lost your job, then you may be entitled to have your child support obligations reduced. Please contact our Edmonton office to book your free initial consult.
We are pleased to announce the newest addition to our team of Edmonton family lawyers, Mike Proskiw.
Mike has focused exclusively on family law since articling with an established general practice firm in Edmonton. He understands that in family law matters, clients have both their emotional and financial well-being at stake. He is a zealous advocate in negotiations and in court.
In addition to Mike’s family law expertise, his pre-law background is in business with a major in accounting. This business and accounting background helps him work with clients to understand complex corporate, tax and financial arrangements. This gives clients a full picture of what their options in order to make informed decisions when considering settlement proposals. His business and accounting background also helps him to understand the financial positions of both sides in a family law dispute where property, assets, and support are in issue.
Mike is a skilled and persistent lawyer and we are excited to have him as part of the Edmonton team.
Guest Post – Gareth Slocombe, CIRP, CPA-CA, Trustee
With household debt said to be at record levels in Canada, financial stress frequently accompanies separation and divorce. In the interest of providing you with some timely information on debt and options for taking control of your financial future, we are delighted to welcome the input of Gareth Slocombe, CIRP, CPA-CA, Trustee*. Gareth will be guest posting on topics related to financial security and debt resolution. The first topic up for discussion is the slippery slope of credit card debt.
Who’s responsible for credit card debt on separation?
The first issue to consider is which spouse is legally responsible to the credit card company for the balance on the card, leaving aside any consideration of a separation.
The spouse who signed the credit card agreement is fully responsible for the credit card debt on that card.
If one spouse signed for the card but a secondary card was issued in the name of the other spouse, then the other spouse is responsible for the debt from both cards as soon as that secondary card is activated and used.
If both spouses signed for the card, this is considered a joint credit card and both spouses are legally responsible to the credit card company.
It is important to remember that the debt obligation to the credit card company by either one or both spouses does not change due to the separation of the spouses. What does change is how, and to what extent, the spouses become responsible to compensate each other for the outstanding credit card debts existing at the date of separation. It is worth bearing in mind that there is a legal test as to what constitutes separation, and you can be “separated” even if you are living together. Your lawyer will be able to advise you as to what date the courts would treat you as “separated.”
How credit card debt is shared at separation
The next thing to consider is how responsibility for the credit card debts is shared at separation. For couples in BC, family debts and assets are dealt with under the Family Law Act which came into force in 2013.
The Family Law Act deems you to be spouses upon marriage or after living in a marriage like relationship for a period of two years (or less than two years if you have a child together). The general rule is that all debts and assets acquired between the date that you begin cohabiting with your spouse and up to the date of separation are to be divided equally between the spouses.
A simple example is two separating spouses with combined credit card debt of $70,000 broken down as follows:
Solely husband’s cards $40,000
Solely wife’s cards $20,000
Joint cards $10,000
Pursuant to the Family Law Act, at the date of separation, the credit card debt of $70,000 is split 50/50. However, because the husband is legally responsible to the credit card company for his $40,000 plus $10,000 for the joint cards, there needs to be an equalization payment between the spouses to even things up to $35,000 each.
Equalization of credit card debts
There are a number of ways for the equalization to occur, including:
The wife could assume full responsibility for the joint card and also pay $5,000 to the husband
Some or all of the cards could be paid off with funds generated from the sale of joint assets.
While this may appear fairly straight forward, issues can arise when there is no available property to be used to pay off the debts and one or both of the spouses are having trouble making payments. For example, if the wife is unable to either pay off the joint card or to make the equalization payment, that still leaves the husband responsible for the full $50,000 in credit card debt ($40,000 plus $10,000).
Credit card companies are not bound by separation agreement
The important thing to remember is that the credit card company is not bound by the separation agreement. They will still look to recover the full amount of the debt from whomever is named on the card.
What can you do to protect yourself from accumulating further credit card debt?
If you are involved in a separation or expect that you will be shortly, it is clearly a good idea to ensure that you are at least no longer responsible for charges incurred on joint credit cards. Even though the separation will trigger a split of debts between you and your spouse, you don’t want to be held responsible for continuing charges by your ex-spouse on joint cards.
You should contact the credit card company to cancel your card on the joint account and obtain confirmation that you are no longer responsible for any further charges.
Preparing for financial life after separation
Aside from settling issues regarding joint cards, you may want to consider some basic steps to take control of your finances now that you are no longer part of a relationship. As a separating couple, you may be going from a household with possibly two incomes and one set of household expenses to each spouse now having a single income combined with a full set of household expenses. Here are some things to consider to help make the transition smoother:
Prepare a budget. Perhaps only one spouse handled all the finances while in the relationship. Given the added financial burden on separation, it is very important to get your monthly finances in order. Breakups can also be very emotionally taxing, and this often leads to overspending or a loss of focus on finances
Cancel existing credit cards and get a prepaid credit card. Regardless of your credit rating, it is always possible today to get a prepaid credit card that is necessary for so many of today’s financial transactions.
Consider cohabiting with your ex. As odd as this may sound, this may be a much more financially viable alternative than physically separating assuming your separation was not too acrimonious. In fact, the Family Law Act specifically provides for situations where spouses have legally separated but continue to reside together. If you are thinking about going this route, you should get legal advice from a family law lawyer on how to set this up so that there is no confusion about separation dates that may affect your legal rights and obligations.
What do you do if you and your soon to be Ex are carrying a significant balance at the time of separation?
Assuming that the debts are becoming unmanageable for one or both of you and can’t be reduced from the liquidation of family property, then it is important to address the situation from the perspective of doing what is mutually beneficial for both of you going forward. Issues to consider include:
Letting your ex-spouse, who is responsible for joint debt, drift into insolvency is not in your interest because you are still liable for that debt regardless of any separation agreement. Whether you like it or not, you may be in a situation of mutually assured financial destruction.
Reducing or eliminating the debt can put you or your ex-spouse in a better position to possibly pay or maintain support payments.
Contacting a Licensed Insolvency Trustee to discuss options for reducing or eliminating the debts will give you a better picture of what is, and what is not, possible. This can be done either separately or jointly under a consumer proposal or possibly a bankruptcy filing if a proposal is not viable.
If you have a family lawyer acting for you, discuss whether getting in touch with a Licensed Insolvency Trustee may be helpful. In collaborative divorce situations getting help from financial experts experienced with resolving debt situations may be one way that you and your ex can find a creative solution to making separation less financially painful.
*Gareth Slocombe is a member of the Canadian Association of Insolvency and Restructuring Professionals. He is a Licensed Insolvency Trustee and a Chartered Professional Accountant. You can learn more about Gareth and the services he provides by visiting his website at debthelpbc.ca.
Sometimes when parties separate, it is amicable, and both parties are civil and even friendly with each other allowing for seamless decision-making. Other times, after a separation, the last thing that either party wants to do is see the other person, let alone speak to them. The lack of communication between separating parties is especially challenging when there are children involved.
The Downside to Losing Your Cool with Your Ex
In high conflict cases involving custody, access and child support evidence of communications between the parties is often front and centre if the matter goes to court. In these cases, there is a considerable downside if a large part of a court proceeding or trial is spent dissecting the parties’ communication with each other with each side pointing out snide responses, intentional delays, foul language, aggressive tone and blaming each other for communication breakdowns. Going through correspondence, including emails and text messages that the parties exchanged going back (sometimes over years) to the date the parties separated can take up days of trial time. Not only does this mean a significant legal bill, but you also need to consider the impact the content of those communications may have on a judge’s view of your conduct. In short, it is important to understand at the outset that when you are going through a separation and divorce, everything you say to your soon-to-be Ex may, at some point, be before a Judge.
Separation and divorce are stressful and frequently emotionally charged, as such, they tend not to bring out the best in people. The take away that I can share with you from my trial experience is this: no matter how hard, upsetting, or frustrating you believe the other party to be, it is extremely important that your communication with the other party does not reflect it.
Tips for Keeping Your Cool and Presenting Your Best Self at Trial
Things to bear in mind when communicating with your ex:
Keep the tone neutral
Be civil in your communication
Be respectful – as hard as that may be. Think about how you want to be spoken to and take that as your guide.
Do not unnecessarily make the communication difficult, particularly when trying to finalize decisions that impact your children – this is as much for your kids as it is for any future trial
Do not use foul or aggressive language
Respond in a timely manner and if you delay for good reason, explain the reason for the delay
Choose one form of communication (either text or email, not a mix of both as it is difficult to keep track of if it gets to trial)
Save all emails and texts. Don’t edit material to make yourself look good – show your lawyer everything so he or she can decide how best to proceed
If you receive communication that is upsetting, do not respond right away – take some time to calm down before answering so that you can keep the response neutral in tone or to decide whether to respond at all. If you feel the need to respond right away, one way to deal with the situation is to go ahead and draft an email getting out all your frustrations but DO NOT send it until you have given yourself a chance to calm down and edit your response.
NOTE: If you have a lawyer, you may not want to consult your lawyer before responding. In some cases, the parties can and do communicate without the need for intervention by legal counsel, but if your situation is high conflict, it is not a bad call to let your lawyer know what is going on so they can advise you.
At transitions of parenting time, greet the other party and be courteous to make the transition as stress-free and seamless as possible for the children
In some cases, it may be hard to keep communication civil, but you will be best served to minimize conflict in your communication with your Ex. The best way to approach all communication during a separation and divorce is to ask yourself, “if this was before a judge, what would the judge think?”
What Can You Do About Abusive Communication?
If you are finding communication with your Ex difficult, or your exchanges are resulting in escalating conflict, get help. If you have a counselor talk to them about communication styles and how to cope with aggressive or abusive communication. If you have a lawyer, talk to him or her about what you can do to diffuse the conflict and move toward a more productive way of negotiating your separation.
Questions about communications issues during separation or divorce? We are here to help. Contact us for a free consultation.