Whilst amicable is sometimes an aspiration rather than a reality when you start the divorce process, one thing is certain. To sort out separation you have to communicate with each other. How you communicate, and what it costs you can vary greatly – here are our thoughts on the best ways to keep your communication amicable and affordable.
1. Beware of getting a third party such as a solicitor to communicate for you
Engaging a solicitor at this time can create a dependency and become exceptionally expensive. Whilst it’s tempting not to deal with your partner directly, solicitor’s letters are often seen as escalatory.
Additionally, at £30 plus per letter, it’s easy to see how you can spend hundreds of pounds very quickly. Something to consider is also how long your divorce will take. It's not in the solicitors interest to resolve your divorce quickly.
Relinquishing control in this way is disempowering and can leave you feeling unable to respond yourself. Unless you are super-rich, you will have to learn to communicate.
And remember, when the process ends, the professionals will walk away and it is just the two of you. If you have kids, be sure you have a platform for communicating.
As co-parents you will need to communicate on a range of issues as both of you will have parental responsibility. You’ll need to discuss visits to each parent, extended family, health and education irrespective of who the children live with.
2. Don’t let the angry phase of your separation define the communication throughout
It’s an eye-wateringly expensive mistake and could hugely escalate the cost of divorce. Whilst you feel upset, anger or distress, aim to minimise the communication with your partner … don’t bury your head or shut yourself off, instead vocalise your concern.
You could say something like ‘whilst you feel so raw, you may not be able to communicate in the best way to sort things out and move things on. Therefore you’d like to suggest a brief cooling off period to gather your thoughts and get in a better place to communicate’.
This is the time to consider using a counsellor. Use the sessions to work through your raw emotions and say what you need to say etc. If you can negotiate a few months’ then great but even a shorter period can be useful to re-group.
3. Separate the message from the emotion
A good tip to improve your effectiveness is to focus on what you need to say to resolve matters. Separate this from what you want to say to hurt, punish or respond to something they have said that you feel is unfair.
The latter has nowhere to go. You won’t change the other person and you will only escalate things…if you have things you really need to say, speak to your therapist or write a letter and burn it!
It works – and yes you will feel better.
4. Take a more business-like approach
From now on, imagine that your boss will see or hear everything you say or send to your partner. Whatever you’re feeling inside, keep the tone polite-friendly but no longer intimate.
Present what you need to say in a factual proposal or statement. Have the intent to solve an issue, make a proposal or buy thinking time only.
Review everything you write at least twice and always seek to cut what you are saying in half each time you review.
5. Less is definitely more
Just because someone asks you a question you don’t have to reply. When receiving an angry or emotional email consider what will happen if you do nothing.
Don’t fall into the trap of responding by saying you are not responding! ‘I have nothing to say’ rarely goes down well and escalates things – better to let your silence do the talking.
This strategy only works when you receiving a venting communication – if you are being asked to sort things out and there are decisions to be made, then obviously you should respond.
It's better in those circumstances to manage expectations, for example, saying ‘I’ll need to think about this, so I will come back to you in a couple of days’ – but make sure you do what you say you will do and respond within the times frame you’ve set.
Always under promise rather than set yourself a time frame you cannot meet. Sticking to what you have said you will do and building trust is important.
At amicable we believe learning how to communicate as ex-partners or co-parents is the most important skill when you separate. Get this right and the chances of being able to put the children first and divorce amicably increase.
Poor communication (that is email or texts that lead to misunderstandings, escalate matters or end in long silences) are usually a sign of unresolved emotional issues.
Get help if this is the case. Speak to a divorce coach or therapist as this can keep your family from imploding and save you hundreds if not thousands of pounds.