Emotions run high in virtually all Family Law disputes between separated and divorcing spouses. Yet it’s common for couples to have to stay in contact with each other after separation, usually because they have children together and must work out the various arrangements for child custody, access, and ongoing care.
In today’s world, communication is simpler and quicker than ever: emails and texting have supplanted (if not outright replaced) the need for telephone calls. But when disagreements or misunderstanding arise, it is all-too-easy to send a volley of nasty – and frequently ill-considered – messages back and forth.
I always advise my clients that simply because a nasty text can be sent, it does not mean it should be sent. Rather, there is something to be said for the parties exercising restraint and demonstrating civility in their use of electronic communication at all times.
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The recent Ontario decision in Menchella v. Menchella underlines this point. The court in that case found that a husband’s onslaught of abusive text messages to the wife constituted to “violence” for the purposes of the Family Law Act; the court was therefore authorized to exercise its authority to order that exclusive possession of the matrimonial home in the wife’s favour. For the purposes of the legislative definition, the court found that “violence” could be inflicted through words as well as deeds.
The lesson to be learned from cases such as Menchella is that spouses in a Family Law dispute should always govern themselves with the utmost of decorum; this means refraining from sending harshly-worded messages whenever possible, or at the least taking some time to “sleep on it” first. It’s never wise to hit the “send” button in haste.
For a copy of the decision mentioned, see: Menchella v. Menchella, 2012 ONSC 6304 at http://canlii.ca/t/ftmth
Shulman Law Firm is a Toronto-area firm of experienced Family Lawyers who can provide practical advice and effective representation relating to the steps and processes involved in separating and getting divorced in Ontario. Contact us to set up a consultation.