Fighting Words: Hurtful Communication Between Co-Parents
April 3, 2012 – Family Law Blog
posted by Megan McWhirter
Many parents have described to me how their ex-spouse is the inferior parent; he or she doesn’t buy organic, eats dinner in front of the television, watches two and a half men and doesn’t make the child floss before bed. At this point there may already have been heated discussions between the parents on this subject, with liberal use of the phrase “sole custody”. These attitudes can also find their way into otherwise routine communications between parents.
In a recent court decision, A.C.V. v. S.J.R., 2011 BCSC 1279, our Court emphasized the care that sould be taken when communicating with a co-parent; as only in extreme circumstances would one parent be excluded from the child’s life.
In this case, the Honourable Mr. Justice Joyce of the Supreme Court of British Columbia dealt with the issue of how two parents were to communicate with one another about matters affecting their child. In the Court’s view “email communication, while not as good as calm, courteous personal discourse, is the preferred option. It should be limited to matters concerning the child upon which it is truly necessary or helpful to communicate. I encourage the parents to compose when they are calm, always to re-read what they have written and, before hitting the send button, ask this question: Do I want this message being read in Court?” Mr. Justice Joyce also provided a helpful template to be used by the parents in their email communications:
I wish to inform you of the following events/circumstances regarding (child name):
|Date||Nature of issue (illness, etc.)||Attendance at Doctor/Treatment/Medication|
|Date||Nature of issue||Action taken|
|HOMEWORK ISSUES [List any special assignments and due dates or matters requiring attention]|
|Upcoming events during my next custody period that you may wish to attend are: (list with date(s))|
|PLEASE ENSURE THAT (J.R.) BRINGS THE FOLLOWING ITEMS FOR NEXT TIME WITH ME|
|OTHER MATTERS OF WHICH YOU SHOULD BE AWARE CONCERNING (child name)|
This form, or some variation of it, may help eliminate fighting words from the conversation.