It’s no secret that divorce is tough. Not only are you grieving the loss of your marriage, but you are also navigating a confusing and emotional legal process. On top of all that, you are still expected to communicate with your spouse about things like separation logistics, child custody and parenting time, property division, and support issues.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, know that you’re not alone. Many people find themselves struggling to communicate effectively during and after their divorce. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to make the process easier and establish healthy communication habits moving forward.
As you begin the divorce process, take some time to establish boundaries with your spouse. Decide what topics are off-limits for discussion, and agree to disagree on certain issues.
You should also establish boundaries when it comes to communication channels. Determine which topics can be discussed in person, over the phone, or through email or texts, and stick to those guidelines. This will help to reduce miscommunication and provide some structure to your interactions.
Serious conversations about things like child custody and parenting time should always be had in person or over the phone, if possible. Digital communication can be easily misconstrued, and important details can be lost in translation. However, text-based communication channels like text messaging and email can be helpful for sharing things like school schedules, medical appointments, and other logistical information.
If your ex-spouse is having difficulty respecting your communication boundaries, it may be best to limit contact to more formal channels like email or have a third party present for in-person conversations. You can always consult with a divorce lawyer if you need help setting or enforcing boundaries.
When communicating with your ex-spouse, aim to focus on solutions rather than dwelling on the problem. This means having a constructive, positive attitude and being willing to compromise.
For example, if you’re arguing about parenting time schedules, try to come up with a few different options that would work for both of you. If you are disagreeing about who will get the family home, talk about what you both need in order to feel comfortable moving forward.
It is also important to avoid using “you” statements, as these can quickly turn into accusations. For example, instead of saying, “You never want to spend time with the kids,” try saying, “I’m feeling frustrated because I’d like you to have more time with the kids.” This shift in perspective can make a big difference in how your conversation unfolds.
Working with a family law attorney who has experience with divorce mediation can also be helpful. A mediator is a neutral third party who can facilitate constructive conversations and help the two parties come to an agreement on key issues.
Early in the divorce process, you may need to have some difficult conversations with your estranged spouse. When having them, it is important to keep things to the point. This will help to avoid arguments and misunderstandings.
After your divorce is finalized, you may find yourself interacting with your former spouse on a more regular basis, especially if you have children together. When possible, keep these interactions brief and informative.
For example, if you are requesting a temporary change to your parenting time schedule, simply state the facts and what you are hoping to achieve. There is no need to go into detail or have a long discussion about the situation. The same goes for sharing information about your children’s activities or medical appointments.
Responses should also be brief. If the initial message is not a request but simply a statement of fact, a brief acknowledgment is sufficient. For example, if your ex-spouse sends you a text message saying, “I’ll be picking up the kids at 3 p.m. on Saturday,” you can simply reply with “OK.”
Even if you struggle to see eye to eye with your ex-spouse, it is important to be respectful in your interactions. This means refraining from name-calling, sarcasm, and other forms of belittling behavior.
If you are feeling overwhelmed or emotional, it is acceptable to take a break from the conversation. Let your ex-spouse know that you need some time to calm down, and then pick up the conversation at a later date. If your children happen to witness one of these exchanges, you will be modeling healthy conflict resolution skills for them that will only benefit them in the future.
It is also important to avoid using your children as pawns in your divorce. Don’t use them to relay messages or try to score points against their other parent. This will only serve to further upset and confuse them.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is take a step back and let your divorce attorney handle the situation. This is especially true if you and your ex-spouse are having difficulty communicating in a constructive way.
Parting ways can be a major adjustment, both emotionally and logistically. You may be used to sharing your thoughts and feelings with your ex-spouse, but you are now two separate individuals with a legal boundary between you.
It is important to respect this boundary and to protect your privacy. Anything you say to your ex-spouse can be used against you in court, so it’s important to be mindful of what you say and how you say it.
A good rule of thumb is to avoid discussing anything of a personal or sensitive nature. This includes topics like your dating life, finances, and personal plans for the future. This guideline is particularly important when you are going through the divorce process.
Of course, there will be some exceptions to this rule. For example, you may need to discuss your respective finances in order to come to an agreement on child support or alimony payments. In these cases, be sure to be as clear and concise as possible.
If you are unsure whether something is appropriate to share, it is best to err on the side of caution and keep it to yourself. You can also ask your divorce attorney for guidance in this regard.
A third-party perspective can be invaluable when trying to communicate with your ex-spouse, especially if you are having difficulty seeing eye to eye. And when that perspective comes from an experienced legal professional, you can be confident that you are getting accurate and unbiased advice.
There is no shame in seeking outside help for your divorce-related communication struggles. From helping you draft important documents to facilitating mediation, a family lawyer can be a valuable asset throughout the divorce process.
By working with a divorce lawyer, you can ensure that all of your communications with your estranged spouse are appropriate, respectful, and in your best interests. As you move forward with your post-divorce life, you will be glad you made the decision to seek legal guidance.
If you are ready to take the next step in your divorce, Lawrence Law may be able to be of assistance. With offices in Watchung and Red Bank, our team of New Jersey family law attorneys is here to guide you through every step of the process, from start to finish. Contact us today at 908-645-1000 to schedule a consultation. We look forward to helping you achieve a positive outcome.
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