If you haven’t got something nice to say: 7 rules for communicating with your spouse during a divorce


It is well-known that divorce can bring out the worst in people. Relationships that were once happy can turn into bitter feuds about who should keep the car, or who contributed the most to the family home.

Although resolving the finances can be a delicate and contentious process, the divorce itself need not be, assuming both parties wish to end the marriage.

To make communicating with your spouse as smooth as possible, here are 7 rules that you should try to stick by:

1. Don’t surprise your spouse with a petition for divorce

The Family Law Protocol, which serves to ensure that family cases are dealt with fairly, sets out that it is good practice to inform the respondent (the spouse being divorced) before a divorce petition is issued at court. Also, it is good practice to let them see a draft of the court papers.

This provides the opportunity for the respondent to review the documents and the reasons given by the petitioner (the spouse filing for divorce) for the divorce before proceedings begin. This often opens up the channels of communication, which may benefit both long-term.

2. Ensure you each have an understanding of the process

The very nature of our divorce system in the UK means that petitioners are tasked with recalling and explaining difficult past events within the court paperwork. This is assuming they have not already been separated for a period of two years.

In terms of the information that needs to be included on the petition itself, there is a balance to be found between putting enough in to demonstrate to the court that the marriage has irretrievably broken down (and therefore they are entitled to a divorce) and putting in so much that it inflames matters between the parties once the respondent sees the paperwork.

If both parties have a clear understanding of this, and the facts are agreed beforehand, it is unlikely to cause undue animosity during the process.

3. Be aware of your tone, especially during written communications

Written communication forms a permanent record that will not only be seen by your spouse but also potentially, in due course, by the court and others associated with the proceedings.

Not only can a negative or accusatory tone put you in a bad light but it may also hinder how efficiently matters are resolved. This is because it clouds the underlying message and therefore the ultimate goal of reaching an amicable and mutually-acceptable agreement.

Be particularly aware of texts or email sent in haste.

4. Avoid speaking to your spouse when you’re angry or upset

Aside from getting the paperwork right, there is also a huge benefit to not verbally bad-mouthing an ex-partner during or after divorce proceedings, however heated things may become.

This is particularly important where there are children involved since the parties’ ability to share parenting and maintain a civil relationship is key to making a post-separation relationship work.

5. Avoid using social media

Venting personal feelings via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (or any social platform) can aggravate matters significantly, since meanings behind posts, however generic or vague, can be easily misinterpreted where emotion is involved.

You should also be careful that anything you do post does not breach the confidentiality of your spouse as the detail of the court proceedings is likely to be strictly private.

6. Only deal with the present issue

As part of the divorce, you will be encouraged to discuss and agree on the division of your finances and also arrangements for your children, where appropriate. Both of these issues can be sensitive and so it is wise to deal with each distinctly.

If you are having difficulty in agreeing how to split your joint assets, this should not impede your willingness to agree contact for children, for example, as doing so will prolong the resolution of both aspects. A court will be particularly critical of parents who allow financial issues to impact upon their attitude to decisions in relation to children.

7. Let your solicitor do the talking

Having an appropriately-qualified lawyer to communicate and negotiate on your behalf is an extremely efficient way of resolving all matters relating to your divorce. In doing so, you remove the emotion from what is very often a particularly challenging time and focus instead on the end goal of finalising the divorce, financial matters and arrangements for children – allowing you to move forward.

Family lawyers who are members of ‘Resolution’ are committed to handling such cases in a non-confrontational manner.

What are the benefits of remaining civil during divorce?

In summary, the very best course of action is to be pragmatic and focus on the future by avoiding negative and accusatory behaviour – both within and outside the divorce process.

Solid legal advice is that this process should be treated as a means to an end; don’t get hung-up on issues that will not assist your end goal. This may take strong resolve but, ultimately, is worth it to achieve the best possible outcome for you and your children.

For more information about any aspect of divorce, please contact our Family team who would be happy to advise you.

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