A divorce is major life event that often causes varying degrees of conflict between spouses. There may be feelings of anger, sadness, loss, betrayal, and even failure. These feelings are further complicated when one or both parties experience or fear financial insecurity, disruptions in their personal, school, or social life, or observe behavioral changes in their children. Many divorcing couples find themselves in courtrooms trying to resolve conflicts only to find that these hearings are an adversarial process. Conflict during divorce has serious ramifications not only for the spouses, but also for their children. Below are a few helpful suggestions to reduce conflict.
Tip #1: Support the bond your child has with their other parent - Speak positively about the other parent in the child's presence and encourage the child to maintain communication with the other parent. Also, ensure that other adults who spend time with your children do the same. Never force the child to choose between parents in terms of visitation or with which parent they will reside because this will cause the child stress, anxiety, resentment, and guilt. If you feel you have difficulty regulating your emotions, know when to seek professional help.
Tip #2: Maintain Direct Communication - Communicating via email or text messages is a good way to avoid verbal contact that might lead to conflict. Think about all communications before sending them to ensure they are worded in such a way that will encourage positive problem solving. Another advantage of email or text communication is that it creates a record which might be helpful in the future. Further, using these forms of communication avoids the temptation to use children to gather information or act as messengers. Always be careful when writing emails because your words may (and often do) come back to haunt you in later legal proceedings.
Tip #3: Send communications when you are reasonably calm and collected. Firing off an email when angry or upset, or immediately responding to an abrasive email from a spouse is not the best idea. It is important to you give yourself enough time to think about how you might respond before you actually respond. Pausing before sending will also help you to avoid saying something you might later regret.
Tip #4: Money and child support discussions should take place out of the presence and hearing of children. Children may feel as though they are the cause of their parent's issues regarding child support and finances. Additionally, the parent's stresses, worries, frustrations, and fears concerning money, if shared with a child, may cause that child to have those same feelings.
Tip #5: Pick your Battles. The saying is old, but it is still true today. Fighting every conceivable battle is exhausting for both spouses, and it can cause legal fees to skyrocket. It also makes it difficult for others to discern those issues that are truly most important to you. Know when to speak up, when to let an issue slide, and when to compromise.
Tip #6: Pinpoint specific issues and stressors - In every relationship there are some topics of discussion that are more likely to cause tension and escalate a conflict. For example, if discussing parenting time arrangements with your spouse can rarely be done without an argument, it might be a better idea to have your attorney communicate directly with opposing counsel and negotiate on your behalf.
Tip #7: Know when to apologize. An "I'm sorry" can go a long way towards reducing and even eliminating conflict. If you forgot to send your child's soccer shoes home to the other parent's house, let the other parent know you made a mistake, that you are sorry, and that you will find a way to remedy the situation.
Tip #8: A courtroom is not a place for revenge. Ending up in court to settle disagreements should be a last resort option. In going to court, you are giving a judge or commissioner, who likely knows very little about your situation, the power to make decisions that will have a huge impact on your life. Often, you can retain the most control over your divorce by working with your spouse to come to an amicable resolution.
Tip #9: Take Care of Yourself – Divorces are stressful. Take the time to do things you enjoy or to try out new potential hobbies. Spend time with family and friends. Continue to do activities that relax you such as going to the gym, reading, or volunteering. Consider joining a support group for those going through divorce because they may be able to provide you with tips for handling emotional stressors.
Tip #10: Pick an attorney who will be reasonable. An attorney who can keep a level head will be a huge asset during your divorce. These types of attorneys are less likely to cause additional conflicts that will cost you both emotionally and financially. An attorney who simply does whatever you ask of them may not have your best interests at heart. A good attorney will help you come up with achievable goals and encourage you to take the high road when necessary.