Communication Between Parents During and After the Divorce
- Provide a healthy, secure environment for children to help them adjust to changes in their lives before, during and after the divorce.
- Help parents keep the welfare of their children as a top priority during and after a divorce.
- Protect children from exposure to stressful, negative emotional scenes.
The two to three months after the separation are the period when the couple’s relationship moves to a co-parenting one. The goal is to use communication and cooperation that keeps the children in a conflict-free zone where they are not exposed to strife or anger between parents. The following guidelines are intended to help with this transition.
Face-to-face, telephone and voice mail communications
- Try to speak to the other parent with the same respect you show to a business colleague whose business you want to keep, even when there has been a severe disagreement.
- Set firm boundaries around communications about the children: when you are talking about them, do not allow the conversation to go into other subjects, especially emotionally-charged subjects where you and the other parent disagree.
- Communicate about plans for the present and the immediate future of the children.
- Avoid bringing up the past in a way that is provocative.
- Make only promises and commitments you plan to keep.
- Do not criticize the other person or allow your children to overhear others do so, even when you are provoked.
- If the discussion gets heated, suggest continuing it later; calmly end the conversation.
- Try to respect the other person’s schedule at work and with the children and postpone discussions to times when his or her attention is not divided.
- Stick to the subject at hand. For telephone and voice-mail, it helps to write down what you plan to say, keep the notes in front of you and stick to the notes.
E-mail and Texts
- Unlike telephone calls, e-mails and texts have certain benefits: you cannot hear the tone of the other person’s voice; you can postpone responding until you feel ready to communicate in a calm, reasonable way and you both have a record of what was said.
- Do not expect the other parent to respond on a same-day basis unless a decision about the children cannot be postponed until the following day.
- When communicating about children, don’t include other subjects in the same e-mail.
- If you are upset with your ex-spouse and your feelings might spill over in the e-mail or text, wait until you have calmed down, write what you want to say, then click Save. Later, re-read and edit the document before you send it.
- Do not use e-mails or texts to your ex-spouse as documents that you intend to use in litigation.
- Do not forward your ex-spouse’s emails and texts about the children to others without his/her knowledge.