By SHEL SEGAL
Divorce is usually an uncomfortable process filled with heated emotions. But if you find yourself in that position and you want it to go as smoothly as possible, attorney Elizabeth Yang has one crucial piece of advice for you.
“Don’t bring your kids into the divorce case,” said Yang, president of Law & Mediation Offices of Elizabeth Yang. “A lot of parents use their kids in so many ways that are so wrong. They use their kids to communicate with the other parent because they don’t want to talk to the other parent. They’ll say, ‘Go tell your dad that he needs to pay for your soccer lessons,’ or they’ll say, ‘It’s time for mom to pay for your tuition that’s coming up.’ So, the child ends up shouldering the burden of the divorce between the two parents.”
One way to avoid that pitfall, Yang said, is to take advantage of today’s technology to keep communication between the divorcing parents productive and civil.
“There is an app called ‘Talking Parents’ and there’s an app called ‘Our Family Wizard,’” she said. “They are basically messaging apps that allow parents to communicate using text. The good thing is these apps don’t allow the parents to manipulate or delete any texts.”
And there is a very good reason why this is important, Yang said.
“With an ordinary text you can keep what you want and make a screenshot of it to make the other parent look bad in front of a judge,” she said, adding this happens a lot. “The other parent could look bad because you took out the context. You need to keep the entire message so the judge sees the entire picture. For example, if you start cursing out your ex and delete the cursing but just keep the other parent’s responses, that could make the other person look bad while wrongly making you look good. So, these apps preserve the conversations in their entirety.”
Since the communication in these apps could possibly be scrutinized by the court, parents tend to present their best behavior, Yang said.
“The funny thing, on Talking Parents, for example, you rarely see any curse words because you know the judge will be looking at these conversations,” she said. “It forces all parties to act more cordial and professionally.”
Yang added if you are currently in this position, it would be good to download the app and start using it now rather than waiting for it to be court ordered.
“I usually recommend it to my clients before waiting for a judge to order it,” she said. “If we wait before we go to court almost 100 percent of the time the judge will order it because he knows how effective it is. So, you just get in the habit now of using it now for communication. It could make life easier down the road.”
Depending on the ages of the child being caught in the divorce, they may or may not be able to give their opinion of the divorce to the judge, Yang said. She added older children can have more say in what the outcome of the proceedings should be.
“It certainly varies from child to child, but as far as state law goes, a child has to be at least age 14 in order to testify in court,” Yang said. “If they’re younger and they have an opinion, what happens is an investigation can be ordered and an investigator can come and conduct an in-home interview. The investigator would write a report up documenting what the child said and that would be presented to the court. But at that age the child wouldn’t be able to testify before the judge.”
While Yang has been practicing law as a divorce attorney for many years, she said she learned a ton about the process and what it does to children just through her own experience of going through a difficult divorce.
“Babies do understand what is going on,” Yang said. “When I was going through a divorce with my ex, my son was just 6 months old. My daughter was not even 2 years old yet. And going through our custody exchanges, and because we had so much negative energy against each other, my children were almost always crying at every single custody exchange. If I dropped the kids off with at my mom’s house, they didn’t cry like that. So, during our parent exchanges they’d be crying their eyes out. They were babies. They couldn’t speak, but they could feel their negative energy between us. They knew something was going on.”
If you would like to discuss any aspect of Family Law, please phone Law & Mediation Offices of Elizabeth Yang at (877) 492-6452 or log onto http://www.yanglawoffices.com.