For me, this was just another day at work; I have seen this so many times. At a minimum, the couple needed a way to communicate that did not involve screaming at each other over the phone. Why not put it all in email I said. That makes a record of what gets said, and perhaps that will help you to be a bit nicer to each other. If you can’t be civil, you may have to explain your words to your lawyer, or to a judge if it all comes back to court.
Many of their disagreements were over money. I suggested a rule that expenses have to be agreed through the email. They each agreed the other could provide emergency medical care for their children, and they were comfortable with in-network healthcare for everything else. Part of the deal was that if either parent spent money without telling the other parent, that parent would pay 100%. All other expenses went by the child support statute. Their emails would be the record for the financial decisions.
Now that I am mediating family cases, I am having the same conversations in settlement. Just about everyone sees the benefit of a dedicated online solution that separates child related communications from business and adult personal life. I am aware of two such solutions.
Talking Parents.com is free, which makes it very popular. It sells itself as a replacement for email, text and all other electronic communications between co-parents. When used as the exclusive means of communication, it yields a secure, reliable, complete and spam free record. At a basic level, it does what I have just described.
For a family wanting more organization and sophistication, Our Family Wizard takes things to a whole different level. Beyond electronic communications, this system offers calendaring, expense logs, and a document repository for things such as court documents, parenting plans, and children’s health or other records. You can even give a child partial access to the account, such as a calendar that shows the schedule of parenting time, extracurricular activities, doctor visits etc. Our Family Wizard is not free, but it may pay for itself if it keeps a family out of court.
I have added a page about these solutions to my website.
As for my “we don’t talk” parents, they agreed on a parenting plan that included using email to communicate. The ink was barely dry when one parent came back to court saying she had discussed it all with the kids who did not like the plan. The other parent claimed he was getting no response to his emails. One of them eventually ended up as sole decision maker, to the shock and bitter regret of the other.
Not everyone gets it, but for those who can achieve that “ah ha” moment of clarity, I think talking parents and our family wizard have much to offer as solutions that are in the children’s best interest.