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Tips for conflict-free emails with your co-parent

Many divorced couples determine that they can co-parent most effectively when they avoid in-person and phone conversations with one another. It can become easy to slip into old, destructive patterns of communication. Sometimes, a person's tone of voice can be enough to set their ex off. Texts can also too easily be sent in the heat of anger or leave room for misunderstanding.

Anyway, you've decided to use email to communicate about the kids. This gives you a chance to think about what you're saying, organize your thoughts and review the finished product before you hit "send." Meanwhile, if the recipient is angered by something they read (or think they read), they can set it aside for a short time and look at it again when they're calmer.

Even when communicating with your co-parent via email, there are things you should keep in mind to avoid conflicts and misunderstandings. Following are some important tips:

Be brief and concise

If possible, cover just one topic (for example, a child's upcoming dance recital). Put that topic in the subject line. This will help both of you refer back to it if necessary.

Deal only with the present or future

Don't chastise your co-parent for arriving late to pick up the kids last weekend or thinking that pretzels would pass muster as a "healthy snack" at yesterday's soccer game.

Limit your emails

Unless there's something going on that requires multiple communications, don't email your co-parent more than once or twice a day.

Keep nonparenting issues out of these emails

Those should be dealt with in separate communications or conversations.

Don't delay your response for too long

It's typically best to respond within one day -- particularly if an answer or action is required. However, even if it isn't, it's best to briefly acknowledge that you received the email.

Don't include stepparents and significant others

Co-parents' emails should be between them, even if a new spouse or partner is helping care for the kids. Show them an email if you need to, but it's typically best not to copy them.

Another advantage of email is that if you and your co-parent have conflicts that you can't resolve, emails can provide you with evidence that they committed or agreed to something. If the problem rises to the level of something you need to consult with your attorney about, having email documentation can be valuable.

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