How to Prevent a Family Law Emergency
By Dodie Sachs
There is nothing quite like getting a phone call from a client at four o’clock on a Friday, with a visitation issue that has to be dealt with before the weekend. I know that my clients have tried to work this issue out with the other parent before calling me, but in almost every situation, if the parties had started talking about the issue earlier in the week, it would not have turned into a four o’clock problem. You know that saying about the five P’s — Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
If you are co-parenting a child or children, start a process where you email the other parent regularly.
1. Send an email setting out the children’s upcoming events, and what you believe the parenting schedule for the week should be. If there is an upcoming holiday, start the conversation about that holiday’s parenting time early. You can also include concerns you have about the child, and copies of receipts that you need be reimbursed for in the same email.
2. If you receive one of these emails, take time to really think through the issues and questions asked. Don’t fire off an answer before you check your schedule, or the Parenting Plan or whatever necessary resource.
3. BE RESPECTFUL in your communication to the other parent. I know I need to do another post on this but be brief and business like in your email. Use the same language and care with the email as you do when emailing your boss or your most important customer. And, most importantly, delay sending an email when you feel emotional or upset. Take a few hours (or a day, if needed) to revisit the email before sending to make sure your communication is something you wouldn’t mind a judge reading.
You may also want to think about getting a shared calendar with the other parent or using the calendar options available to you already. I did some research on shared calendars recently, and the regular digital calendar you already use is probably your best resource (Here is one of the articles I read). Did you know you can send an invitation to another person for events you set on your calendar on your phone? When you set an appointment for your child on your calendar, check and see if you can send an invitation to the other parent to the event that way everyone has the same information at the same time.
In Gwinnett County, we have an Advanced Co-Parenting Course available to everyone. It is also something that parties in some cases get ordered to take. This course is a small group counseling session where you talk about your communication problems with the other parent, and the counselor advises you how to make things better (sign up here). The Advanced Co-Parenting Course recommends regular communication with the other parent in a calm and reasoned way. This class is a great resource in learning the best way to communicate with the other parent (even when they won’t communicate with you).
So, the simple answer really is to communicate respectfully and regularly with the other parent. Hopefully, it will prevent future problems.