January 31, 2012

The Benefits Of Cooperating With Your Ex

As a Portland Oregon divorce lawyer, I meet with many parents post divorce that have difficulty getting along with their ex-spouse.  One of the  most stressful events in life is divorce, and it makes sense that divorce would further damage  many parent’s ability to get along with the ex. Although the marital relationship ends, many ex-spouses would like to have an ongoing friendly relationship with their exes, especially where kids are involved. Not everyone can get along, and there are safety and metal health reasons that may make post divorce cooperation impossible.  From my perspective as a divorce lawyer, for divorced parents that could get along, cooperation and getting along has enormous benefits for your children. I believe that many divorced parents that end up using lawyers for modifications could have avoided the legal process in the first place by maintaining a good relationship with their ex.

Here are a few tips based on my 17 years of experience helping people during and after divorce:

  1. Establish New Boundaries. Decide what things can and cannot be discussed. It is best for you to stay away from the topics of conflict until such time that you can calmly discuss them.
  2. Compromise. “Agree to disagree.” This one can be tough because of pride and differences in opinion. When this happens, you need to focus and get back to the reason why you need to get along… your children. You should also acknowledge from the beginning that there will be inevitably differences in opinion. Then agree that when this happens, you should try not to talk while angry.  There should be a reasonable cooling period, and the try again.
  3. Keep the promises. Once you and ex-spouse have compromised agreements, you need to keep those promises. If you agreed to take turns to pick up kids,  live up to that agreement.  Whether you followed through or not during the marriage, you need to now.
  4. Continue to communicate. Communication is vital. The cold shoulder or silent treatment may have contributed to the breakdown of the marriage, and it is even more destructive to cooperation post-divorce.  You and your ex-spouse need to keep the lines of communication open even if it is awkward.
  5. Consider Counseling. The Portland area has many extraordinary counselors who can help divorced couples with communication. I frequently refer people to counselors as part of our helping approach to divorce and because I believe that if successful,  it has enormous benefits for a client. If you or your ex are having difficulty with the above three points, consider getting into post divorce counseling to help with your communication issues.

Divorce is an opportunity to establish a new relationship with your ex that focuses on the children.  From my experience, parents that can focus on getting along and on the kids use lawyers less and are happier. Most importantly, there are enormous benefits for your children.