Has this happened to you during your divorce? An important decision regarding money or children needs to be discussed. You’ve done your homework on everything that you need to know before scheduling a date and time for the conversation. You enter the room with the intention of having a calm and civil conversation with your spouse, but then something triggers you, and just like that, you’re in an ugly back-and-forth shouting match that you wish you could undo. After the conversation is over and you have time to reflect, you feel terrible knowing that you know better than to have such a heated exchange. Unfortunately, these types of heated exchanges with your spouse can seriously harm your divorce process, especially if they happen often.
Here are 5 reasons why it’s so important to communicate well during your divorce, as well as 6 tips on how you can do so.
1. Most divorces are resolved without a trial.
Why is this important to know? Because you will most likely be negotiating to a settlement. This could be through your attorney or directly between you and your spouse. To ensure that your attorney is in the best position to negotiate to a settlement, you need to communicate clearly and reasonably. If you can do this, you will be focusing on what your attorney needs to know to advocate effectively on your behalf. Defining realistic goals at the beginning of the case with your attorney usually translates to you getting more of what you want. When negotiating directly with your spouse, respectful negotiations keep the discussion moving forward, which is good for your bank account and your family. If you and your spouse remain respectful throughout the process, it is much more likely that both of you will compromise to reach an amicable settlement.
2. Your attorney fees will be less.
Every minute counts and costs money. The more time it takes you to discuss matters with your attorney, the greater the cost of attorney fees. Instead of showing up to an appointment with your attorney unprepared, arrive with a summary of what you want to discuss. Highlight the key points in your summary. Have a list of tentative goals identified for what you want to receive at the end of the case. Prepare a list of questions you want to ask your lawyer, so you don’t forget, and then you need to have a follow-up email for a phone call. Efficiently use your time and your lawyer’s time. Remember, you hired your attorney for his or her legal expertise. Maximize his or her knowledge by being as prepared as possible each time you speak with your attorney.
3. Your children benefit when you and your spouse get along.
Children suffer when their parents disparage each other, fight in front of them and share too much adult divorce content. Your children didn’t ask for this divorce, so why are you making them suffer? Set an example for your children. Treat your co-parent in the same manner you want to be treated. For communications with your children during the divorce process, you should reinforce love, support, healthy boundaries, and active listening with the clear goal of improving how your children adjust to their new divorce family situation.
4. You benefit when you and your spouse get along.
This is a simple statement but one that is very difficult to understand when going through a divorce. By focusing your efforts to avoid conflict at all costs, you can evolve into the person you really wanted to be when you reflect on this time post-divorce. Do not allow yourself to only focus on the negative traits of your spouse. If you couldn’t control or change these traits during the marriage, then you probably will fail to attempt to control or change them post-divorce. Reason 1 asked you to focus on making a list of goals for your divorce case. This list is generally five items long but could be a bit longer if necessary. You should do the same for the personal relationship that you want to maintain post-divorce as a co-parent with your then former spouse. Take a few minutes to identify your goals and create a narrative that you present to each of your children when he or she becomes a certain age. Consider creating a similar narrative to present to your family and friends. Doing this work upfront will remind you of your priorities and help you focus on them when you are stressed during the divorce process.
5. Your communication with your spouse during the divorce lays the foundation for healthy co-parenting post-divorce.
When communications during the divorce process are handled well, you greatly increase the opportunity for long-term, healthy co-parenting. There are going to be child-related challenges in the months and years to come. At a minimum, you want to be a joint legal custodian so you can confer and agree with your then former spouse about all medical, education, and other important child decisions. It is difficult to always be on your best behavior, but choosing the high road becomes easier each day, especially once you see the benefits of your efforts.
Now, that all sounds great, but how do you do all this when your soon-to-be former spouse makes you feel stressed, overwhelmed, and anxious? Well, consider trying one of the following:
1. Don’t look back.
Stop reflecting on the negative past and only focus on a positive future. Make this your personal divorce mission statement. Focus on doing the things you love, what inspires you to get up each day, and achieving your future goals. Nothing good will come from you dwelling on the negative past that resulted in the divorce being necessary.
2. Remove yourself.
Before saying anything that you will regret afterward, sit quietly, and take some deep breaths. Close your eyes, put your phone away and just breathe. Envision yourself somewhere else where you want to be. Sit still for five minutes. Giving yourself the benefit of time, you will avoid having a negative demeanor and engaging in an argument that never needed to happen.
3. Create a funny response.
When you are placed in a stressful situation, create a funny response in your mind to make you relax so you can push through it.
4. Is this communication a reflection of who I am?
Before you hit the send button, ask yourself how you would feel if this was sent to you. Or how would your children think of you if they read this text message or email? Or how would you feel if this text message or email was shown to the judge assigned to your divorce case?
5. Do you need to respond?
That is an important question to answer. Do you have to respond to this text or email? If yes, then what is the minimum amount of information I need to include?
6. Start a divorce journal.
Sometimes just writing these negative situations down in a journal (possibly to be used by your lawyer as a resource in the divorce case) can satisfy your need to vent without causing any harm.
Bottom line, negative communication from you to your spouse will make an appearance in your divorce case. With a little preparation and pause, you should be able to think about the big picture before you respond and give yourself the best chance for success in your divorce case.
Should you need the advice of an experienced divorce attorney or have questions or concerns about your situation, know that we are here to help and ready to discuss those issues with you.