Divorces and E mail: You might be All the time on the File

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Orange tabby cat sitting between standing man and woman inside room; image by Hutomo Abrianto, via Unsplash.com.

The ability to produce a paper trail that supports a clear narrative showing your perspective and the improper self-serving motivations and actions of your adversary will take you a long way toward your goal. 

Divorces are difficult to navigate and often become drawn-out and complicated legal proceedings. We humans, being what we are, have a tendency to selectively recall actions and conversations and even that recall gets hazy over time. So, when with both sides attempt to best recall oral conversations and defend themselves and/or prove the other wrong, the proceedings devolve into a literal “he said/she said” (or he said/he said or she/said/she said) with a judge trying to find that one nugget of truth. You can make the judge’s job just a little easier, and perhaps tilt the scales in your favor if you can produce a “paper” trail of communications concerning a particular issue. 

While it is beneficial to save receipts, photographs, and documents to back up claims and use as evidence, proof of inter-party communication is one of the most important parts of a legal proceeding. Not only is the subject of the communication important, but often times the fact that there was communication is important. Nothing is more effective in swatting away the “I was never told this” smoke screen like an email. For this reason, not only should both parties generate and save the aforementioned evidence, but they should also leave a paper trail of communication by using email, rather than in-person conversations or phone calls. You will note I did not include text messages as the method for communicating. That was intentional. Text messages are not easy to authenticate in Court, they are not easy to forward to your attorney, they may have a limited life on your phone provider’s system and thus may be impossible to recover if deleted from your phone.

While you are busy keeping your trail, remember your soon to be former spouse is doing it too. Before you push the “send” button, think about what kind of response you are going to get. Don’t give your opponent an opening to dilute the impact of the communication. Think also about what the judge will think when he/she reads your email. Do you sound calm and reasonable? Are you using language your mother would approve of?

Deleted Emails Can Be Recovered. Photo by Web Hosting on Unsplash.com.

The need for the paper trail is perhaps more important now than it was before March of 2020. There is no telling when evidentiary hearings will be permitted to resume and assuming the Courts act on “first come/first served” basis, there are already hundreds of cases ahead of you. The fact that the Courts are less available than ever before doesn’t change the fact that major decisions, from finances to child custody, will be made during this time and you don’t want to be accused of acting unilaterally with respect to such decisions.

Furthermore, while every bit of misconduct cannot be immediately addressed, it is important to preserve a record of each incident so that complete picture can be painted later. For example, suppose that during time with your child your co-parent violates social distancing guidelines while the child is in their custody—endangering not only the child, but anyone who may later come in contact with the child. Suppose further that even after calling your coparent out on the incident, it continues. Don’t you think a judge would wonder about that parent’s judgment? 

Also, in the parenting arena, your co-parent may try to use the situation to their advantage and withhold your child from you on the pretext that they must quarantine or that it’s too dangerous to move the child. Such behavior strikes at the heart of what is considered good parenting. Each parent has a very important duty to make sure that they promote and support the role of the other parent, any proof that your “ex” doing the opposite can only help you.

The ability to produce a paper trail that supports a clear narrative showing your perspective and the improper self-serving motivations and actions of your adversary will take you a long way toward your goal.