While divorce ends a legal marital status, it does not end the co-parenting relationship between mothers and fathers. Divorced parents communicate successfully with the best interest of their children in mind. Understanding that your ex-spouse will still be involved in your life when you have children together can be the hardest thing for our clients to grasp. In all other aspects, divorce is about cutting ties to the ex-spouse. You are dividing property and debt and making one spouse responsible after the entry of the judgment. However, children are not separated by a judgment of divorce, and the communication to co-parent the divorce does not make communicating with the spouse any easier.
In some cases, one party did not want the divorce and may have been surprised by the filing. This party is slower to work through their feelings about the end of the relationship. Often, the emotions bleed into the communication with the other spouse during and after the divorce proceedings. However, there are steps that you can take to keep communication with your ex-spouse civil and open during and after the divorce proceedings.
First, realize that the relationship is no longer the same. Even if you still love your spouse, they no longer love you. Keep any thoughts or feelings of love for your ex-spouse to yourself. These thoughts are not appropriate to share. However, if you think your spouse may be open to reconciliation, recognize that you had a role to play in the marriage breakdown. Examine what that role was and if it is possible to repair the damage done in the past to save a marriage. However, many of them required the assistance of a marriage counselor to have a long-lasting impact on their relationship.
Second, no matter what button your spouse pushes with what they say, do not react with hostility or anger. One wrong word or something read out of context starts a barrage of hateful comments. Your children can read or soon will be reading. If your child found the text messages or emails, would your words demonstrate the type of person you want your children to be? If the answer is no, then sending a quick reply is ill-advised. There is no requirement to respond to every text or email from an ex-spouse quickly. If their words set you off, have another person read the message. Do they read the same thing you have read? Listen to what they say about the message and then respond using the high road. There is no need to engage in a battle of slinging hurtful words.
Third, if you cannot exchange the children without a verbal fight occurring, then agree to exchange the children at a public place halfway between homes. If your children are old enough to walk to the other parent’s home or car, allow them to walk without leaving your car. If you have to get out of the car to help get belongings together for the children, speak only to your children and say how much you love them. Remember to be polite in front of the children. If you cannot speak, smile.
Fourth, consider using a communication tool if your relationship and communication are almost impossible to keep civil. Many are out there, from Our Family Wizard to TwoHouses to AppClose. Some of the tools for parents to use charge an annual fee. Others, like AppClose, are free. Several will allow the addition of stepparents, attorneys, or court personnel. Most communication tools have additional features such as a calendar for sharing schedules and appointments, expense reporting for medical reimbursements, or messaging. The communication tool may require a court order that both parties communicate using a particular program, as the tools will only work if both parties use the same one.
Fifth, give the other parent time to respond. There have been texts or emails where one party inundates the other’s inbox with messages sent seconds, if not minutes, apart. This quick fury of messages often indicates that one party cannot wait for the other party to respond. A third party reading the conversation outside of the heat of the moment can see which part took the wrong action in the conversation and where it broke down. Text messages and emails sent between two parents can be used in court to prove how one parent is not following the court order. There is no way to prevent them from not being introduced, and the words said in the heat of the moment can make a loving parent look controlling or selfish. Control your emotions and responses.
Remember, while a divorce ends a legal marital status, it does not end a family. Divorce has changed the way your family lives and interacts. As a parent, it is your job to do what is best for your children. This may include shielding your children from the animosity that parents have for one another. If your ex-spouse continues to feed the hostility, contact our office for help. And visit our YouTube channel for more information on co-parenting, communication, and more.