Communications 101

Communication – or lack thereof – seems to be the root of many the world’s problems. In fact, this very well may be one of the main reasons you are getting a divorce. Communicating when your spouse becomes your ex is decidedly more difficult than when he/she was your spouse.  But beyond the hurt and the raw emotions of it all, poor communication can (and will) end up in the courtroom and come back to haunt you. So just don’t do it.

First of all, unless the whole thing is unusually amiable, stick to writing for all communication.  Sending an email or a text ensures that there is a copy of what you said, so no one can come back later claiming something different. Writing also helps keep the emotions low; keep it brief and simple. A great book on how to communicate with someone who is high conflict (or during a high conflict time) is “BIFF,” by Bill Eddy.  A phone call sometimes seems like a good idea in the beginning, but the minute the conversation turns sour and you both start passing insults and allegations back and forth, you know it was a bad idea. We’re human – a divorce is one of the most traumatic things you’ll ever go through – so it’s understandable how these things turn into an “It’s all your fault!” screaming match. Unfortunately, all those shouts and insults will more often than not come out in the exhibits of a declaration when you’re all of a sudden looking at a Temporary Restraining Order that prevents you from disturbing the peace. So keep it simple and keep it in writing. In the event that a phone call happens, follow it up with an email that says, “Just to recap….”

Second: Facebook. Don’t spill the beans about your wife’s affair on Facebook. Don’t call him a slimy *****. Don’t talk about blowing all your (community) paycheck on new shoes.  Don’t post pictures of you downing 40s when you were supposed to be at a family barbeque. Don’t make passive aggressive statements about how to be a “real Dad.” Besides the fact that no one wants to hear the sordid details of your marital strife and this will be your quickest way to lose some friends, or at best, be hidden on everyone’s news feed, I promise you: this WILL come out in court. When your ex is there in court requesting that you stop disturbing his peace, he’s also going to include these Facebook posts where you call him a jerk, are drinking to excess, and spent community funds on a hot new pair of shoes. You may look great in those new Fluevogs, but you’re not going to fare well before the court.  (And on second thought, just don’t refrain from posting these things on Facebook, just don’t do them all together).

Finally, if positive communication with your ex feels impossible, DO at least communicate with your lawyer. It can be difficult and painful to tell a near stranger some of the most intimate details of your life. But your lawyer cannot do her job if you don’t prepare her. Don’t wait until the motion is filed, the declaration is written and the Facebook exhibits are glaring before telling your attorney: oh, yes, that’s true, I did in fact liquidate the IRA so I could go to Mexico….  We attorneys are not here to judge you; we’re here to help you and the more information you can give us, the better we can do our jobs.