Minimizing Conflict in Divorce and Custody Cases

How to back off– for the good of your case– after years of heated emails, phone calls, and in-person interactions.

It can be very difficult to keep your cool when you feel you’ve been wronged, but staying calm and focusing on productive solution-building is critical in divorce and custody cases. Here are a few tips to help keep you on track.

Don’t send angry late-night emails or text messages. You have a lot you want say, but what feels like a cathartic email one night may reflect poorly on you in court a week later. In some instances, what you send may even undermine your entire case.  It’s best to only put things in writing when you’ve had time to think about them a bit first and ensure that they won’t cause additional conflict and complicate the proceedings.

As a general rule, I always advise my clients to write anything they are going to send in a word processing program first. This allows you to save your thoughts for the next day so you can edit and send something that is productive and thoughtful instead of impulsive and angry. (This is especially helpful if you regularly communicate via text, where it’s easy to quickly send brief thoughts and replies without much consideration).

Figure out which method of communication seems to work best. Some people do best when they talk in person; others need to type it out in emails to have some distance and perspective. If you need to hash things out a bit, think about which method of communication is the least likely to result in unproductive bickering.

Stay focused on productivity. No one says you have to like each other, but you will have to work together, whether to finalize a divorce in the short-term, or maybe navigate an ongoing custody arrangement for years. You’ll need to compartmentalize your feelings about how your relationship ended and focus on having productive conversations to accomplish the tasks in front of you. You may spend a lot of time biting your tongue, but it will be worth it. Remember that divorces and post-divorce disputes can drag on for years costing tens of thousands of dollars when the parties involved would rather fight than work together. This doesn’t have to happen– if you can work together, you can save yourselves a lot of money and aggravation (and less unnecessary litigation is always better for any involved children).

Don’t post about conflicts on social media. No, not even with vague references. It’s in poor taste and often easy to see through in court, and it can make you look petty and childish in front of a judge. As with emails, a cathartic post saying the wrong thing can undermine your entire case. It doesn’t matter how secure you feel your contacts or your friends list is: if it’s out on social media, it will be found.

Your best bet? When in doubt, press pause and talk to your attorney for guidance. Once you’ve said or done something, you can’t easily take it back.


To speak further with Attorney Mark Cotton on this issue or another that you are facing, click here for more information.

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