Because I have heard of many issues surrounding communicating between parties, I want to share with everyone some tips on how to communicate with the other parent. In the past 11 and a half years of practice, the one thing that I have seen predominantly across all divorces with children is a problem in communication between the parents. Let us face it, there is a reason people get divorced. There is a reason one of the parties filed first, or maybe both parties came to the agreement that this marriage is not working, and the best thing is to end the marriage. That decision was communicated to the other parent.

But during the divorce even when the parties agree it is what they need to do, there is one thing that I see commonly. There are raw emotions going on. Someone feels wronged. Someone feels hurt. Someone feels like he or she is about to lose everything. Communicating properly can really go a long way for setting what the rest of parent’s life with the children will look like and I’m talking to the rest of both parents’ life, not until the children turn the age of eighteen or not until the children graduate from high school.

Let us face it, parents are going to be at weddings together. Parents are going to be at the high school and college graduations together. Perhaps, parents will be attending graduate school graduations. Parents do not want their children having to go through life figuring out, especially on their wedding day.  Especially if we are talking about a daughter, she does not want to be asking, “Where do I sit my mom? And where do I sit my dad because they do not like each other, and I do not want to deal with the drama.” It is a wedding day and it should be all about the bride. That that is her big day. Loving parents do not want that to be something that overshadows their daughter’s special day. So, it is key to learn how to communicate.

I am going to share with you on every Tuesday a tip on how to communicate that I have learned, either through my own divorce, watching my parents get divorced and handle life afterward the judgment entered, or what I have learned from helping my clients navigate to what it looks like in a post-divorce world. So, the first tip I want to share with all of you is find a method to communicate that works well.

If you have a high conflict divorce, one where the two of you just cannot talk without it turning into a fight. Picking up the phone and calling is probably not your preferred method. Perhaps what you need to do is use text or emails, or even use some an app or program that will help you communicate, so you do not have to talk directly to one another. Understand just because you are co-parenting, does not mean you need to speak in person, or on the telephone to each other. You can send an email, you can send a text, but if both of you have a hard time controlling your emotions on that think about using a program like Our Family Wizard.

Our Family Wizard has been out for as long as I have been practicing law. It is a program designed to help you co parent and communicate. It has a new feature out called ToneMeter. Now, ToneMeter is a new feature on Our Family Wizard.  I have recently seen it in the last few years as a feature in their program. What it does is help parents re-evaluate the tone of the conversation before hitting send. It allows parents to evaluate what is the tone of the message?  When someone is writing in all caps, it means that the person is yelling. So, turn off the caps lock. Learn how to use proper punctuation. Write everything in complete sentences and paragraphs as if you were writing a letter to the judge. It is not helpful to write everything in one big block of text without breaks and commas and punctuation and paragraphs. A lack of proper sentence and paragraph structure makes it difficult to understand the thought process. It is basic communication. When writing something to the other parent, put each thought into a separate paragraph. Use punctuation. Take the time before hitting send to re-read the message. Does it sound and communicate the tone that is not hostile? If so, hit send. If not, maybe let it sit. There is no rule that says a message must immediately be replied to when the other parent is first to communicate. Silence is acceptable and delays are not bad.

I’ve known clients who have a “three rule.” They will tell the other parent once thing starts going downhill, especially on the phone, “Ok, I’m going to hang up the phone if you cannot calm down.” The message is repeated three times before they hang up the phone, because they do not want to engage in a fight. Sometimes when on the phone with the other parent, the children will be around or capable of hearing. So, when parents cannot communicate without resulting to a verbal disagreement or fight, it best use something like Our Family Wizard. Many of the available programs have an app that can be downloaded on an iPhone or Android. Look in the App Store or Google Play for a co-parenting app. There are many different program options out there. Some do charge, and some are free.

It is essential for both parties to agree to on how to communicate with one another. The parties should agree which program to use and how will they to use it? Sometimes when I am helping people redesign their family through divorce and I realized that this case is going to be high conflict. I will make the recommendation to them to use one of the available programs. I will present options to the parties, and we will draft that agreement into a judgment or an order so the parties will know what they are supposed to do.

So again, first step with communication is find a method that works to communicate with each conversation becoming a hostile one. Come back next week and I will have another great tip for you on how to communicate. It is possible to have a better life and for the children to feel like they are not caught up in the parents’ adult drama.

This month Melissa Pearce & Associates is starting a new thing. I will be recording some video tips for our clients and prospective clients. On Mondays, I will share some co-parenting tips. The tip for today is very simple: find a way to communicate.

You know you cannot co-parent with that other parent unless you are communicating. There are so many things to communicate you need to communicate from sports schedules to extracurricular activities. Right now, during the virus restrictions is a prime example of the importance of communication between parents. Parents need to communicate like basic things. I had a client who at the beginning of the state’s shut down in March needed to re-work parenting time for the health and safety of the children. This parent works in the front line: the healthcare industry. The client’s job placed the client and the children at a greater risk of being exposed to the virus home. So, the client asked the other parent to rearrange parenting time for the time being. This meant an end temporarily to in-person visits. The client communicated that the primary motivation was preventing the spread of the virus to my children, which is a very loving and caring thing to do. But my client still wanted to have contact with children. So, both parents were able to sit down and work out a schedule amongst themselves, which is a really great thing if you are co-parenting. You do not need the judge, you do not need lawyers, you do not need referees or anyone else to tell you how to co-parent because you know your children best. These two parents were able to sit down and talk about what would work and they came up with a really good video call schedule for their children to maintain contact with the other parent.

If you have young children, around the age of 2, they are not going to sit on the call for a long time. It does not have to be a long time for the video call. However, you may need to do more frequent phone calls, maybe a call in the morning and a call at night. It could just be a quick call to say good night. When talking about quick call to say good night, maybe what you do is set the child up with your iPad to have a video call with the other parent. The child holds the iPad and the other parent is on the call, and they are reading a bedtime story. You can share the pages by holding them up to the camera. It is a great way to spend time with our kids.

So, if you are going to co-parent, you need to learn how to communicate. You do not have to be best friends, but you do need to communicate. You need to communicate things about health, education, extracurricular activities, and daily problems. It can be hard raising kids, especially in those teenage years. Sometimes you just need to say to the other parent, you did this when you were married, “I need a break, maybe it is time you take the child and see if you can help resolve the issue.” Sometimes our kids just need the other parent and we need to be able to communicate that. Simply tell the other parent that you know the child is going through a really hard time and you believe that the child needs some time with the other parent. This is healthy communication. You cannot force the other parent to be on the same page or place that you are at. All you can do is reach out and communicate but if the other parent is not responding that is not your fault. It is not your responsibility. So, keep that in mind.

Remember, my tip for today is learn how to communicate and establish good communication habits with the other parent that does not bring in animosity into your conversations. There are multiple ways to communicate. In fact, come back tomorrow, because on Tuesdays, I will be sharing with you tips on how to communicate effectively with the other parent to minimize conflict in your divorce, and after the divorce is final.

Watch more of our tips on our YouTube Channel.