A new study suggests modern forms of communication like social media and text messaging can help children in Louisiana and other states cope with the changes that typically take place after a marriage ends. It was previously thought that the biggest factor with parent-child relationships post-divorce was how well the exes got along. But researchers discovered communication between parents and children is what matters most.

The study team reviewed data from divorced moms and dads with kids old enough to use modern communication methods. Some parents were cooperative with one another after their divorce, and others were moderately engaged or conflicted. Other aspects of the parent-child relationship, such as parental knowledge, closeness and discipline inconsistencies, were also considered.

The more contact children had with the parent living outside of the home, the better the relationship was regardless of co-parenting styles. Parents who communicated in any form once a month or less were not as knowledgeable about their kids. Because of the results, researchers suggest that children old enough to use modern forms of direct communication should be allowed to keep direct contact with the parent no longer in the family home. A psychologist commenting on the results says direct communication methods can keep children from getting caught in the middle of contentious post-marriage relationships.

While parenting time and other arrangements for physical interactions with children are often negotiated during the divorce process, there is usually no reason why a child cannot directly contact their other parent whenever they wish via text or social media. If there is a need to clear communication with the custodial parent, a lawyer may attempt to allow an exception for certain forms of communication. Legal action may also be taken if a parent purposely interferes with a child’s attempts at direct contact.