Why Emails and Text Messages Have Become Essential Elements of the Custody Case
As I discussed in part one of this series, which you can read about here, there are 16 factors that the court in Pennsylvania must consider when deciding custody cases. One of those custody factors is the level of conflict between the parties and their willingness to cooperate with each other. Another factor is which party is more likely to encourage frequent and continuing contact between the child and the other parent. In short, if you are consistently withholding custody from the other parent or refusing to cooperate with them in the decision making for the children, the court can factor that against you when deciding custody. On the other side, if you can show that you consistently reach out to the other parent and ask if they want to see the children or are otherwise promoting their relationship with the children, the court will view that positively.
The tricky part becomes showing the court that you are either reaching out to the other parent in a positive manner or that the other parent is refusing to cooperate with you. What inevitably happens is that both parents take turns on the witness stand and tell drastically different recollections of events. Shocking isn’t it?! One parent will say they constantly ask to see the kids but the other parent refuses, and then the other parent will say that the parent has not asked to see the kids in the past six months. With this he said/she said, the judges often times do not know who to believe since there is no proof of what actually happened. That is why having evidence of your communications is essential. And since it is illegal in Pennsylvania to record a conversation between two people unless they both consent, you rarely if ever see video/audio recordings used in custody cases. So the most effective method to provide evidence of the communications is in written form via text messages and emails.
This is where emails and text messages can either greatly help or hurt your case. If you are the parent who constantly needs to beg the other parent to let you see your kids, communicating that via email and text to will go a long way in court. Instead of the judge just having to take your word for it, you will be able to show evidence that you were asking for custody and it was being denied by the other parent. Conversely, if you withhold custody from the other parent and they have been sending you texts asking to see the children and you either ignore or just flat out say no to them, those text messages will surely come back to bite you.
This also goes further than just requests to see the children. The court also considers which parent is more likely to keep the other parent informed about the children’s well-being, i.e. schooling, doctors’ appointments and activities. In addition to just being good parenting, courts look favorably on parents who consistently provide updates to the other parent about the children. Often times when questioned about this at a hearing, the parent who does not provide updates will say that the other parent should just call the doctors or schools themselves to find out what happened. I assure you the courts do not appreciate that response. As part of having legal custody, you have an obligation to keep the other parent apprised of what is going on. And the best way to show the court that you are keeping the other parent updated about the school functions, soccer games and doctors’ visits, is to communicate it via email and text messages. That way it is clearly documented and there is no question you have been keeping the other parent informed.
These are only just some of the ways emails and text messages have become vital to the custody case. As always, you should contact an experienced family law attorney to discuss the specifics of your case. Since custody cases are particularly fact specific, it is essential to have someone knowledgeable in your corner to make sure you are presenting your case in the most effective manner.