Why being a “keyboard warrior” could affect your family law case
In our “always there” lockdowns, many of us have been accustomed to immediate responses to messages, whether as texts, emails or social media messages. It’s also made many of us very quick to react to messages, often dashing off a reply with little time taken to properly consider the impact of our words. This can become a major problem when emotions run high and potentially impact on your legal case, as Managing Director Rita Gupta explains.
We’ve probably all encountered keyboard warriors on social media, all too eager to share their views, and often firing back at others who disagree with them. When it’s just an online discussion about rubbish bins or lack of parking spaces, it’s easy to shrug and laugh it off. However, it is quite a different matter when inflammatory language and words are used in messages by you and/or your ex-partner during divorce and separation.
Communicating with your ex-partner
Communicating with a former partner or spouse can be difficult at the best of times, let alone during legal proceedings. You can use emails and written messages to avoid actually talking to ex-partners, but you do need to be careful what you write. Anything you write can end up before a judge in court, so you need to ask yourself “Would I be happy with that?” Try to keep all communications focused and civil. The moment things start to get heated or abusive, it’s time to stop, step back and take a break.
Setting yourself specific times in which you respond to messages of any sort can help give you space to calm down, think about what they actually said (as opposed to what you think they said!), and work out how to reply. As a professional family lawyer, I set specific email reply times too. Otherwise I’d be replying to emails all night and weekend long. While there are timeframes and court deadlines that will require an urgent response, there is rarely a family law matter so urgent that it cannot wait until the next day. (Unless you are subject to domestic abuse and in danger of harm - see our Domestic Abuse page for ways to help remove yourself from danger, or call 999.)
Dedicated email accounts
It’s a good idea to set up a specific email to communicate with your ex partner, such as a free Google gmail or similar. A dedicated email address helps keep their messages to you separate, and provides an email history between you should you need to prove what was said, and when. Make sure this email account is backed up online, just in case.
Think about your words
Be very careful what you write - and where you write it. It’s important to remember that, as the police caution says,
“You do not have to say anything … (But) Anything you do say may be given in evidence.”
We have lost count of the number of cases where WhatsApp messages, Facebook messages, texts or emails end up before the court. Many may have started as quite straightforward questions, but end up as emotional and inflammatory evidence that can damage your case as well as theirs.
Don’t “jump” to reply
If you have switched on Notifications for emails, texts and messaging apps, your device will ‘ping’ every time you get a message from anyone. If you are one of those people who has to check what every ping is, regardless of the hour, turn Notifications off. The same applies to any device like iPads and computers. If someone really needs to get hold of you urgently, such as children or relatives, tell them to call you.
You can then block calls from your ex partner whilst still be able to take calls that are important. If you have a landline, you can also add blocks to that if required or switch on a Call Screening service - check with your phone provide. This avoids unexpected calls from your ex partner catching you unawares.
Tips on communicating with your ex-partner
In my video, I share more top tips for better communications with your ex-partner, including:
- Limiting communications to what is essential and necessary, such as child arrangements
- Being business-like and factual, and use calm and rational language.
- Not discussing your private life on Facebook, not even with close friends. You never know who is reading their feed. If you need to talk, call a trusted friend.
Keeping your private life private
There are so many platforms where you can “let off steam” about your ex-partner - and none of them will be helpful to your case. So, don’t discuss your private life online full stop; not on Facebook, Twitter or Whatsapp, as even private group conversations can be shared or copied by other members.
Also, don’t video yourself making comments and then post these on any social media platform, especially not Tiktok and Instagram. If you find that your ex partner has done this, it may be worth taking note of what they posted and when, if you can do this without antagonising them in any way.
Where are you?
When you are out and about, it’s important to remember that your phone is often tracking your movements. From running apps to ‘checking in’ at venues, plus the photos you take, your location at a given time can become recorded on your social media accounts. Turn off any automatic location sign-ins if you want to prevent your ex-partner tracking your movements through location tags on photos.
You and your ex partner will inevitably have to communicate on an ongoing basis about your children and child arrangements. Using an app can help take the heat out of everyday interactions such as collecting children from the resident parent, or sharing calendars for health appointment, activities, Zoom calls, etc. The following two apps are very popular with my divorced and separated clients who co-parent (i.e. have shared custody arrangements.)
Your child’s school may also use a Parent Portal to keep you informed of what’s happening at school. Make sure you both have access so you both get the same information at the same time.
Need help communicating with an ex-partner or spouse?
At LGFL, we offer a variety of ways to help you communicate with your ex partner.
- When we represent you, we will deal with communications from their legal team, and send replies.
- We can draft a letter on your behalf setting out arrangements for children, etc. Your ex-partner can agree to this in writing rather than via email or verbally.
- We specialise in online hybrid mediation, enabling you and your ex-partner to work through your differences with the help of a trained mediator. (More details on our Mediation page.)
Call us to book your initial 1-hour online consultation with 30 minutes included free, to discuss your situation and practical solutions.