Communicating Before, During, And After A Divorce
How to Communicate Amicably During and After Divorce
Couples often cite communication struggles as a factor in their divorce. When communication fails between two people, even the most insignificant issue can explode into a major conflict. But while couples often think divorce will resolve this issue, in many cases, former spouses will need to continue to communicate after the divorce is finalized, particularly if they will be co-parenting their children.
The Goal of Communication
No matter the relationship, the goal of communication is the same: to express ideas and feelings and have the other person understand and respond. When one or both persons involved in the exchange are unwilling to listen, consider what the other person is expressing, and then respond in a non-defensive way, communication breaks down. When a communication breakdown happens between married couples, it can lead to the end of the marriage and can become so contentious that some spouses only communicate with each other through their respective divorce lawyers.
However, if the couple shares children, even if they divorce, the goal of their communication will remain the same, and they will need to find ways to do it successfully and amicably for the sake of their children.
Ways of Communicating
People express their ideas and feelings in both verbal and non-verbal ways, and both can have unintended consequences. Verbal communication is all about the words that we choose to express our ideas and feelings. When those words are not clear or direct, they can lead to misunderstandings.
Non-verbal communication includes gestures, facial expressions, and behavior. The way people move as they respond or ignore someone else’s verbal and non-verbal communication has a lot of impact on the outcome of that relationship.
Since communication involves actions from both people, there must also be active listening; while one person is speaking, the other person is actively listening, paying attention to the words, providing verbal and non-verbal responses to show that they are listening, and taking the time to consider what the other person is saying before responding.
Communicating During and After Divorce
The same communication issues that were present when the marriage was struggling are often present during the divorce process. Many times, they might even become more pronounced as there might be bitterness, anger, and fear further complicating the relationship. When bitterness makes it impossible for spouses to even speak with each other without falling into recriminations and arguments, each person might choose to convey any information to their spouse through their divorce lawyer.
However, this can become difficult and costly, particularly if the spouses must communicate often because of their children. In those cases, spouses will need to figure out a way for positive, successful communication. During and after divorce, communication should be brief, clear, and civil. The goal should be to convey your message without inciting a fight.
Communicating as Co-parents
Some couples divorce and have nothing else they need to say to each other. Co-parents, however, will have a lifetime continuing to communicate, or at least until the children reach adulthood. For this reason, co-parents must work on their communication skills with each other. This might come naturally to couples who have gone through an amicable divorce. However, those parents whose divorce was contentious will need to learn how to communicate positively.
Because shared parenting is about serving the best interests of the child, communication between co-parents should also exclusively focus on this. Parents can outline the ways they will communicate and the topics they will communicate about in their parenting agreement. This can help co-parents avoid the triggers that often lead to conflicts.
They should also never convey messages through their children as this can be harmful to the children’s emotional stability, particularly if it makes the children feel like they need to take sides. Some of the topics parents can choose to communicate about include:
- Health issues related to the children
- Behavioral issues
- Schedule changes in the children’s school or extracurricular activities
- Social activities the children want to attend
- Changes in the parents’ respective schedules
Setting Up Rules and Limits for Communication
Positive communication during and after a divorce is achievable, but to do so, both parties need to agree to follow certain rules. This will create clear boundaries that can help prevent conflicts from escalating and threatening the success of the communication. Communication during and after a divorce should not address the past issues that caused hurt and resentment.
Instead, it should focus on the present, which during the divorce can be about resolving the issues to reach a divorce agreement and after the divorce should focus on the issues concerning raising the children. Rules and limits for communication during and after divorce can include:
- The types of tools that will be used to communicate
- The frequency of the communication
- The expected time frame for responses
- How to communicate and proceed during emergency situations
- Commitment to have honest, straightforward communication
Tools for Communicating After the Marriage Has Ended
Face-to-face communication is not always practical during and after a divorce. For some couples, having to look at each other and speak without letting the negative feelings associated with the divorce is a struggle, and the communication between them can easily break down into blaming and shouting. While this can pass over time and they can become more civil to each other, there are issues that must be resolved during the divorce and children that need to be raised. Couples, however, have other tools they can use to ensure they can have positive communication. Some of these include:
- Email, which can provide documentation for your communication
- Texting, which can be useful for quick updates
- Phone calls, which can help parents resolve issues that need immediate solutions
- Shared calendar, which can include all activities and events that affect the children
- Parenting applications, which can help you keep track of everything from scheduling to shared expenses
How to Improve Your Communication Skills During and After Divorce
Healthy communication is a skill that needs to be developed. In the middle of the emotional rollercoaster that can accompany divorce, it might be difficult to work on this skill alone. However, couples do have options when it comes to developing their communication skills. During a divorce, parents can choose to go through the mediation process to resolve their issues.
Mediation, which involves both parties learning to negotiate resolutions with the assistance of a trained neutral third party, can help couples learn to speak to each other to resolve issues instead of falling into old arguments. It can also teach parents how to communicate with each other healthily.
Another option co-parents can use if they continue to have communication struggles after the divorce is to work with a parenting specialist or a therapist that can help parents with their communication issues.
Divorce can be an emotionally overwhelming process, but you do need to move forward in your life, and if you are a parent, you need to figure out a way to continue raising your children with your co-parent. Finding a lawyer that understands your needs is essential. We at the Law Offices of Kelly Berton Rocco are ready to help you plan for your divorce and for your co-parenting journey. Call us at 201-343-0078 or visit us at our Hackensack, New Jersey office for a consultation.