Text messaging can be a good way for ex-spouses to communicate with each other about certain topics, such as the practical details of child custody. Text messages are short and quick, and they can be less likely to lead to extended arguments than a phone call.
On the other hand, sending repeated text messages to an ex-spouse, ex-lover or ex-partner can sometimes be considered harassment – especially if the texts are insulting or have a threatening undertone. Sometimes, repeated texting can result in a restraining order…or even criminal charges.
A recent court case in New Jersey explored where to draw the line.
In that case, a divorced couple shared joint custody of their children. The mother was the primary residential parent, and the couple typically texted each other to communicate about the children.
But the father eventually grew unsatisfied with his ex-wife’s responses, and began texting her repeatedly to get more information. At one point, he texted the mother 18 times in a short period to find out his daughter’s SAT score.
The mother filed for a restraining order, claiming that the repeated texting constituted harassment.
But a judge ruled that while the father’s texting was “dysfunctional,” it wasn’t illegal because it involved legitimate concerns about his children’s lives.
However, the judge made a point of saying that had the texts involved other subjects, they could have been considered harassment, resulting in legal consequences.
So it’s important to be careful about texting. If you feel that your ex-spouse is stonewalling you about your children or other important matters, it’s best to consult your lawyer to discuss the best way to handle the situation. And if you feel that your ex’s texting has become genuinely harassing, you should consult an attorney for advice – or, if you feel imminently threatened, call the police.