Effective communication is essential for an amicable divorce. Without good communication, the divorce process can be unnecessarily protracted and may ultimately require court intervention. While good communication may be ideal, most divorcing couples find their interactions to be fraught with hostility, emotionally draining, unproductive and haphazard. There are ways to improve communication even in a divorce. Employing the tips outlined below can help keep your divorce on track for favorable and swift resolution.
Everything you say during your divorce has the potential to be used against you in court. Therefore, it’s best to assume that every encounter with your spouse is being memorialized or recorded in some fashion. A judge won’t be impressed by name-calling, insults or shouting. An angry voicemail about your spouse’s failure to pick up the kids also demonstrates to a judge your lack of impulse control and civility. Don’t give your spouse any ammunition. Keep your communications, short, to the point, and civil.
During a divorce, couples establish new boundaries for communicating with each other. While prior to your divorce you may have texted or called your spouse at work, for even trivial matters, that same behavior is now likely to irritate your spouse. Establishing clear guidelines on how you want to communicate during and after your divorce can help keep tempers even and your divorce moving in the right direction.
The method you choose to initiate communication must be appropriate for the subject. Time-sensitive information should be communicated by text or telephone. Notifying your spouse that a child is injured or that you will be late to pick up the kids are good examples of time-sensitive communications better suited for text or phone. Less urgent matters should be conveyed by e-mail and letters. Requesting reimbursement for a child’s medical expenses is not urgent and better done by e-mail than text.
Face to face conversations should be scheduled in advance, whenever possible, especially if you think the conversation may be heated. Scheduling face to face conversations can help keep everyone’s emotions in check. Designating a specific time for lengthy discussions also allows you to find a public or neutral ground for your discussion and prevents the children from overhearing your conversations. It also gives you time to make a checklist of important points to discuss.
Getting your spouse to accept these new boundaries is not always easy. In time, your spouse may incorporate these new habits. Even if he or she doesn’t, applying these guidelines to how you chose to communicate with your spouse will help keep you calm and better able to respond appropriately to the situation at hand.
The tone of your communications should be civil. Sarcasm, insults, and shouting will inflame your spouse and move you away from your goal of reaching an amicable and swift resolution. If you are on the receiving end of uncivil behavior, simply ignore it or end the conversation. If your spouse is unable to communicate civilly, speak to your lawyer and evaluate your options. Subjecting yourself to repeated hostility is unnecessary and does nothing to resolve your divorce.
Most divorcing couples are hoping to limit the number of contacts they have with their soon to be ex-spouse. If your spouse is amenable, you can set aside time each week to address divorce issues. Short of that, keep in mind that you don’t have to immediately respond to every e-mail, phone call, or text message sent by your spouse. Respond once you have had time to craft a calm and thoughtful response.
A laser-like focus on the present issues can help you avoid unnecessary and heated discussions about past behavior or transgressions. All too often well-intentioned couples get sidetracked from the narrow issue they are trying to resolve by dwelling on the past. Staying focused on the present will help you resolve all the issues in your case more quickly. If you find yourself getting sidetracked, attempt to refocus your conversation by saying, “I think we got sidetracked here. Let’s focus on….” If your efforts to refocus fail, it’s time to end the conversation.
Most spouses have finished each other’s sentences at some point during their marriage. The level of familiarity and intimacy in a marriage causes us to make lots of assumptions about what our spouse is thinking and feeling. During your divorce, consciously challenge any assumptions. Ask your spouse to clarify anything that seems ambiguous or vague. For example, if your spouse agrees to pick up your son after school don’t assume that means 4pm. Instead, ask for clarification: “so we are all on the same page, what time will you arrive?” Being clear and specific will help avoid tension later on.
Every encounter with your spouse doesn’t have to leave you exhausted and depleted. If you are covering the same ground or your spouse is shouting, end the conversation. Try ending the conversation like this:
There are several reasons your spouse may not be ready or able to engage in good communication. One possibility is that years of poor communication may be a hard habit to break, especially under the duress of a divorce. Frequently, one spouse is not ready for divorce because he or she is still grieving the end of the marriage. Grieving may manifest itself as uncharacteristic hostility or by a complete lack of communication. Mental illness is also often to blame for poor communication. Whatever may be preventing your spouse from engaging in good communication, implementing these tips can only help you in the long run.
If you are in the process of divorcing, it’s crucial to consult a lawyer before making any agreements with your spouse. For example, agreeing to one additional overnight visit a month may seem benign, but it can have unintended consequences for child support. This is why the best practice is to consult with a knowledgeable attorney about your situation. Your attorney may advise that certain topics are simply off-limits. If in doubt, don’t agree to anything. While this could be perceived as uncooperative, you can minimize that sentiment by stating that you are happy to engage in constructive discussions about issues in your case, but you won’t agree to anything until you have had an opportunity to run it past your divorce lawyer. If delivered sincerely and civilly, it should keep the lines of communication open.
While it may be hard to focus on good communication in the heat of a divorce, doing so can reduce your legal fees by keeping you focused on resolving the key issues in your divorce. It will also set you on the right path to establishing a healthy post-divorce relationship with your spouse. The Cook County divorce attorneys at Goodman Law Firm are available to answer any questions you may have about the divorce process. Schedule a consultation today to get your questions answered.
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