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Technology Eases Divorce in Texas

In my more than 15 years of helping Texas couples divorce as quickly, inexpensively and amicably as possible, the most challenging tend to be those with children. Through the 70s and 80s, mothers usually won custody with the father receiving visitation rights.

In the 90s, changes in parenting beliefs, more women in the workforce, and a more balanced view by the courts have changed that. Almost all states now offer some kind of joint custody. Joint legal custody, in which parents share or split decision-making, is becoming the norm. While laws vary widely by state, joint physical custody, where children divide their time between their father's and mother's homes, is increasingly common as judges and psychologists believe having two parents routinely is in the child's best interest.

The legal system focuses first on the well-being of the children, and while the parents try to do so as well, sometimes the very things that caused the divorce, interfere with parents' best intentions. When custody is shared or joint, frequent communication between the parents is essential. Typically, both parents work, and juggling schedules and calendars is challenging. Unfortunately, frequent telephone calls and face-to-face discussions became a cause of continuing anxiety, stress, and divisiveness. Because no matter how well-intentioned, these exchanges often ended with angry confrontations, too often in front of the children.

Like so much in the 21st century, technology is coming to the rescue. First, was email, which helped reduce the number of telephone calls between ex-spouses. Second, the ubiquity of smart phones has enabled text messaging, which is particularly suitable for resolving last-minute scheduling changes.

Third, divorced parents often establish a special, shared on-line calendar listing all their children's activities, enabling better and more flexible scheduling, and increasing parental participation in children's activities.

Fourth, judges may order the use of Skype, with low-cost webcams, for the non-custodial parent to have both visual and voice access to their children. In some cases, parents may be required to buy their children a cellphone to enable the noncustodial parent to have unfettered access to their children, while the court can have a record of the amount of contact with the child.

If disagreements continue, the introduction of such tools as The Family Wizard. With this and other such tools, lawyers can supervise e-mail exchanges between her and her ex, ensuring that each party responds to the other in a timely manner. All e-mails are time dated and tracked. Parents can create a shared expense log and receive automated notices and reminders about parental obligations.

With emails, test messages, cellphone logs, and online calendars, a permanent record of the communications becomes a matter of record and can become evidence.

My advice: never email or text your ex-spouse when angry. Type it and save it for 24 hours. Then, before sending, think how a judge would react if he or she read it.

Source: "Kramer.com vs. Kramer.com", Pamela Paul, New York Times, November 25, 2012

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