How To Talk To Your Former Spouse By Braxton Mounteer

Regardless of your feelings towards your ex-spouse, if you have children, you will have to talk or otherwise communicate to your ex (and do so often) about the minor children throughout their minority. While you have minor children, you will need to “deal” with your ex regularly.

As is the case for anyone with whom you have to communicate regularly and frequently, both you and the children benefit from you knowing how to communicate effectively with your ex.

Effective communication with an ex-spouse and co-parent needs to be civil, courteous, and businesslike. Being the reason that communications broke down will only hurt you and the children.

“But,” you may ask, “what do I do if my ex communicates in a combative, falsely accusatory, and/or insulting manner? Isn’t giving as good as I get justified at that point?” Those are two fair and excellent questions. And the answers are clear.

First, record all communications with your ex. “Record” does not mean simply audio recording. “Record” means making a record. A record can take the form of sound, video, and writing. Every conversation you have with your ex should be recorded (even if that means following up on any personal meeting or phone call with an e-mail or text message summarizing what you and your ex discussed). Recording makes false accusations much harder to make. If your ex ever refuses to communicate with you “unless you promise not to record,” that’s indisputable proof that you need to record.

Second, ensure that all of your communications with your ex are conducted in a mature, courteous, clear, and concise manner.

If you stay classy for months or years and then reach your “breaking point” by unloading a torrent of sick burns and other “he/she had it coming” tirades, then all the goodwill you built up to that point is swept away in an instant. If you sink to your combative ex’s level, you will be (and rightfully so) seen by the court as no better than your ex (perhaps seen as even worse). It’s that simple.

It is possible (and highly likely) that the rantings and ravings of your former spouse are a set up. So give yourself a break. Don’t let your antagonistic ex manipulate you into becoming your own worst enemy. Do not rise to your ex’s bait. The last thing that you want is to react inappropriately to your ex’s goading, so that you look like the bad guy.

If you cannot talk in person or over the phone to your spouse without your emotions getting the better of you, communicate in writing. And don’t fight fire with fire. Do not under any circumstances send anything in writing without taking the time to cool off before you hit the “send” button. Make sure your communications do not cause you any self-inflicted wounds.

This does not, however, mean you must be a doormat. You don’t have to be mute in the face of lies and insults. It can be as simple and easy as this:

Your ex:          You clearly have no idea how to meet the educational needs of our children, so you ignore their homework and no-show for parent teacher conferences, just like you’ve always done. It’s what I expect from someone who never went to college. Don’t bother to try helping with homework anymore, and don’t even try to attend parent teacher conferences either. If you are there when I’m there, I’ll call the police.

You:                What you have accused me of is false. I care about our children’s education and their individual needs. I want to ensure their needs are met, and I do my best to meet those needs. I talk with our kids, I consult their teachers. I help with their homework and ensure they complete it when they are with me. One does not have to have gone to college to appreciate the value of an education, and I am no exception. The reason I did not go to the last parent teacher conference is because you gave me the wrong date and time for it (why you did that I do not know). I will be there for next week’s parent teacher conference.

I asked the school if we could attend parent teacher conferences separately, but the school does not allow it, so if we both want to attend (and I do want to attend), we will have to attend together. We can attend together. You cannot prohibit me from attending. All I want to do and will do when I attend is meet with and talk with Ms. Hansen. There is no reason to call the police. The police cannot prevent either of us from attending. Please do not embarrass our children, yourself, Ms. Hansen, the school, or me by calling the police needlessly.

Are there any questions?

Thank you.

Any judge or commissioner who listens to or reads a response like that simply cannot fault you. If anyone ends up getting chewed out or sanctioned by the court in connection with this exchange it won’t be you. Any ex who isn’t smart enough to see who really looks bad in this exchange (and does not change his/her wicked ways in response) is someone who will never figure it out.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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