Divorcing: How to Communicate with a Difficult Ex Knowing it Will Be Read in Court

California Bar Certified Family Law Specialist Vanessa Nellis headshot

Vanessa Soto Nellis | Shareholder

January 14, 2021

One big mistake clients make is letting their emotions get the best of them during the divorce process, and then documenting it in writing (text, email, comments on social media, etc.), which are later used as exhibits in court.

Venomous communication is never helpful during a divorce. We have found that Bill Eddy’s BIFF method is a simple tool for helping clients communicate when emotions are high. Here is the framework – simply be:

  • Brief
  • Informative
  • Friendly
  • Firm

The first questions you should always ask yourself are: “Is there any information asked of me?” or “Is there a question in the communication?” Many emotionally charged emails do not warrant a response and can be left alone.

Then ask yourself: “Do I need to respond to this now?” Typically, the email is not urgent, so generally there is time to think about the response for a day or two. Here is an example: “There is no way I am switching days with you next week. You should’ve planned your sister’s visit around your custodial time.”

There is nothing to respond to. There is no question asked.

Second example: “There is no way I am switching days with you next week. Why didn’t you plan your sister’s visit around your custodial time?”

There is a question here, but it is not urgent. After a day, a response could be: “Thank you for responding to my request to switch days next week. Unfortunately, my sister’s travel schedule put her in town on your day. Since the kids don’t get to see my sister very often, I thought it will be good for them to have a visit. If you reconsider, please let me know by tomorrow at 5 p.m. Thank you.” 

When divorcing or going through a bad breakup, from a legal standpoint, it’s always best to take the high road.  Your communications will likely be exhibits in a divorce proceeding.  Avoid responding at all if a response is not required, or keep your tone dialed down if a reply is required. Taking the high road tends to deescalate a situation quickly.

Vanessa Soto Nellis is a Certified Family Law Specialist, as designated by the State Bar of California.




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