I was in court the other day contesting a temporary restraining order (TRO) that had been brought against my client to prohibit my client from enrolling the parties’ children in a new school after my client had moved, even though my client-parent is the primary caregiver.
The opposing party-parent claimed that my client-parent, allegedly based on information provided by my client, was going to have the young children walking to school on very large and dangerous roads to and from school and that the parties’ young children would be left alone at home before and after school because of my client’s work schedule, leaving home and arriving home without any adult present in the children’s primary residence. The opposing party-parent’s allegations were completely unfounded, based on assumptions on hearsay, without any personal knowledge of any kind of evidence, admissible or otherwise, to present to the court.
The fact was that my client-parent had not informed the opposing party parent of my client-parent’s enrollment of the parties’ children in their new school, how the parties’ children would or would not be transported to school, or what my client-parent’s work schedule was going to be or how my client-parent’s work schedule would line-up with the parties’ children’s school schedule. My client-parent had already arranged a work schedule allow daily accompanying of the parties’ children to school from their home and from school to their home, providing full-time personal, parental care for the parties’ children before and after school. The opposing party-parent’s claims regarding my client-parent’s alleged intended plans for the parties’ children based on the opposing party-parent’s conversation(s) with my client-parent were simply untrue, as there had been no such alleged conversations.
While there was no merit to the opposing party-parent’s claim and the relief sought by the opposing party-parent was denied, the court did not award my client-parent attorney fees. What?
The judge began his ruling by stating, “This is an expensive way to have a conversation.” In the end, the judge’s ruling to not award my client-parent attorney fees even though the opposing party’s claim was meritless and the TRO was denied was based on the court’s finding that my client-parent (by my client-parent’s admission) had not informed the opposing party-parent of: my client-parent’s registration of the parties’ young children in the “new” local school; how the parties’ children were going to be transported to school; that my client-parent would be providing personal, parental care at all times for the parties’ young children daily before and after school, or; what my client-parent’s daily work schedule was going to be to accommodate my client-parent’s ability to provide that personal, parental care for the parties’ young children.
So what is the lesson learned?
In a divorce/post-divorce situation where there is a minor child(ren) of the two divorcing/divorced parties, as a divorcing/divorced co-parent, you must (absent other intervening factors or orders) learn to communicate with your co-parent, your child(ren)’s other parent. It is always best if parent-parties can get along and communicate civilly via telephone, e-mail, or text. However, if you feel your co-parent is difficult or uncivil, you MUST communicate in writing (keep a copy for yourself of everything you send). I prefer my clients communicate with their co-parent via e-mail, my next choice is traditional U.S. Mail, and I hate cell phone texts (these are really hard to capture and introduce as evidence to the court).
The key here is that you MUST communicate. After the experience I have shared above, I recommended that my client-parent that my client-parent communicate in writing to the opposing party/co-parent regarding the parties’ children at least every 1-2 weeks, giving updates on activities, events, etc. Putting all communications in writing (and keeping a copy) creates a record of communication that documents your good faith efforts to share information with your co-parent. All other things being equal, had my client-parent communicated in writing to the opposing party/co-parent, my client-parent would have been awarded attorney fees or, even better, we wouldn’t even have been in court in the first place.
Please comment, add, refute, clarify or inquire regarding this posting if you are so inclined. I would love for this blog to become a helpful dialogue and resource.