Everyone knows the childhood rhyme, “Sticks and Stones” which ends with “and words can never hurt me.” I disagree. Whether the words are true or not, words in and of themselves can be quite hurtful. When people come to me with the desire to obtain a divorce, my first piece of advice is to watch their words. Words can be spoken or written and must always be carefully chosen. I am finding that most people don’t think about this. They can produce pages and pages of emails between themselves and their soon to be ex-spouse. They can produce hundreds of text messages exchanged in the heat of a moment. And, lastly, they are certain that there are issues, disagreements and even arguments that need to be re-hashed word for word. All of this works both ways. Just as they are handing me stacks of papers memorializing the bad times of their marriage, the soon to be ex is across town delivering the same messages to their attorney.
Emails and text messages are unique mediums. They are void of emotion and context. Sarcasm is often lost in written form as well as humor. Although, I believe that using these forms of communication can be extremely valuable for its ease of use and instant contact, electronic communication can also be very dangerous. I encourage my clients to use email when communicating with their soon to be exs or even their former spouse, but with a caveat: say what you mean, be concise and to the point. Emails and texts are great when two people can’t seem to get along yet must still communicate about issues outstanding between them, like children.
Many times people express themselves through email when they would never speak those words aloud. It’s as though once the window opens, people feel comfortable spewing words and phrases that are completely out of character. But what is written is preserved. The words never disappear. Unlike their spoken counterpart, words don’t float into memory to become foggy, they are seared onto a hard drive to be remembered just when you need them forgotten.
I tell my clients not write anything that they wouldn’t want their grandmother seeing, because ultimately, in a divorce situation, the world will see, including your grandmother, your children, and the family law judge.