Making plans: A guide to parenting arrangements after separation or divorce

Appendix B: E-mail etiquette for separating and divorcing parents

You and the other parent can use e-mail to discuss issues affecting your children. It can be a convenient and practical way to exchange information. But it can also lead to misunderstandings if you are not clear. When we communicate in person, we often use non-verbal cues (smiles, frowns, tears, tone of voice) to signal our feelings. E-mail takes away those cues. While that may help in cases when our emotions are too strong, it can also cause problems if the words alone can be read in different ways.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Keep your e-mails short and to the point. If you have more than one issue to discuss, try numbering each issue to make it easier for the other parent to follow your points.
  2. Use subject-lines. This can help both of you keep track of e-mails on different issues.
  3. Do not type in CAPS. This means that you are SHOUTING!
  4. Be courteous in your e-mails—please, thank you and a friendly tone can go a long way.
  5. Try to keep your e-mails about parenting issues separate from e-mails on financial issues. These are different issues which should be addressed separately.
  6. If you are feeling emotional when you need to write an e-mail (perhaps you have just received a very upsetting e-mail), walk away and take some time to reflect. Re-read the e-mail you have received to make sure that you have not read something into it that is not there. Write your e-mail when you have a clear mind.
  7. Try to stick to the facts. Avoid criticizing the other parent.
  8. Don't ignore e-mails from the other parent. Respond promptly and briefly when a response is required. Even if the other parent is simply providing you with some information and a response is not strictly required, it is good etiquette to at least acknowledge the e-mail. For example: "I'm going to take Emma to my parent's house for dinner." Response: "Thanks for letting me know."
  9. Your e-mails should only be addressed to the other parent. New spouses, other family members or friends should not be included on your e-mail exchanges.
  10. Remember: E-mails are a record of your communications. Write your e-mails as if a third person were reading it.
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