Category: communication

How Do I Handle Hostile Communications From My Ex?

How Do I Handle Hostile Communications From My Ex?

Whether in the middle of a divorce/custody case or after the legal dust has cleared, you may be plagued by hostile communications from your ex.  It may be text messages, emails, phone calls, or over social media. Most of it probably has little, if any, legal significance so you can simply ignore it. It cannot have any power over you unless you let it and often it is more an indication of the writer’s emotional state than anything else.  Responding with similar or like-kind emotion is probably the worst thing you can do and will usually only serve to escalate things. However, since emails and other communications can find their way into court files and litigation, you may feel compelled to respond.  If you do feel compelled to respond, it is important to keep these rules in mind.

1.  Keep it brief.  Say only what you absolutely need to say to fulfill your legal obligations or correct inaccuracies and then be done. The more you write, the more material the other side has to use against you. Keeping responses short will often help diffuse the situation and, hopefully, end the harassment (at least temporarily).

2.  Stick to the facts.  Do not allow yourself to be drug down to the level of your harasser. If you have to respond, keep your responses factual and informative.  Remember, the point is often to simply correct misinformation in previous communications. Correct the error and be done.  For example, “Just to be clear, the children were not left alone. My mother came and stayed with them while I was out of town.”

Avoid being argumentative. Do not use sarcasm or negative comments. Avoid threats and profanity (both of which always seem much worse when seen in the printed word). Do not use personal attacks like name calling or insulting their intelligence.  If they are a high conflict personality, it will only throw fuel on the fire and increase the harassment.

3.  Kill them with kindness. When the other side is hostile, you respond with civility. Although you may be tempted to anger, you will achieve your case much better by keeping the tone of your responses friendly. If they are shown in court it will help to highlight the contrast between how you handle the situation like a reasonable adult as opposed to your ex.

There is no need to be syrupy sweet as that can come back around to sounding sarcastic. Just keep the tone relaxed and non-antagonistic. Acknowledge their concerns and then address them. Continuing from the example above, “I understand that you were worried about the children, but mother had things under control.”

4.  Be firm.  In a very matter of fact sort of way, communicate to the other person your position on the issue and be done. Think Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.” Avoid comments that invite discussion, negotiation or anything that would continue the conversation. Comments like “I think you would agree. . .” or anything involving a question like “who,” “what,” “when,” where,” “why,” or “how” will only invite a response from the other person which is what you are trying to avoid.

It is important that you sound confident and avoid asking for information if you want to end the back and forth. A confident person is less likely to be challenged with further communications. If you are challenged, and feel the need to respond, make this response even shorter than the first and do not emotionally engage.

Whether it is on your work or personal email, handling communications from your ex with these rules in mind will help minimize the emotional anguish it causes you.

Photo courtesy of AJ Cann

Five Sure-Fire Ways to Increase the Costs of Your Divorce

Five Sure-Fire Ways to Increase the Costs of Your Divorce

The old joke is that divorces are expensive because they are worth it.  Nevertheless, some people insist on making their case as absolutely expensive as possible.  Here are five ways to drastically increase the costs of your divorce.

Overcommit financially – Often people under stress deal with that stress with a little “retail therapy.”  They continue spending as though nothing has changed, or worse, they spend even more than during the marriage.  They shower the children with new gifts trying to buy their affection or they overcommit to the lease or purchase of a new home.  While it is perfectly reasonable to want nice things and provide a lovely home for your family, you have to keep in mind your current (and future) financial situation.
Involve your lawyer in every decision – You should definitely consult your lawyer when necessary about your case, but I have had clients who asked me to give them advice on dating.  Definitely not money well spent.  I heard the story in USA Today about a woman who would call her lawyer every day to ask him to speak with her parrot thinking that her husband would eventually have to pay the huge legal fees.  She was wrong and had to pay her own $70,000 legal bill
Demand an absolute even split down to the penny – Marital finances never work out that way neither do divorce finances.  Keep in mind the statute requires a “just” division of property not an equal one.  When you are fighting over the value of a TV or a sofa, keep in mind that the amount spent in lawyer fees will likely not make the difference in values worth fighting over.
Insist on fighting over everything – Not saying that you have to roll over by any stretch of the imagination, but I mediated a case one time where two seemingly intelligent people were arguing over everything right down to the Post-it notes in the house.  Some things simply are not worth it especially when you compare what you gain to what you will pay in time and litigation costs.

Do something stupid that results in criminal charges – In divorce cases, there is a lot of stress and conflict.  I have seen otherwise normally reasonable people flip out and do things that they would never otherwise think of doing.  Before they know it, they have criminal charges against them for things like criminal mischief (property damage), animal cruelty, stalking, driving under the influence, and assault/domestic violence.  Then they are not only having to pay legal fees to defend those charges, but, most likely, fines and court costs as well.
These are just a few ways you can make your divorce more expensive.  The two key words of advice that will help control your costs more than anything else? “Be reasonable.”
Photo courtesy of Chris Potter
My Ex Has Now Become a Disneyland Parent & I Feel Like the Bad Guy!

My Ex Has Now Become a Disneyland Parent & I Feel Like the Bad Guy!

Often in a divorce or child custody situation, one parent compensates for feelings of guilt by being overly generous with the children.  Sometimes it is simply a matter of the parent trying to “buy the children’s love.”  This is usually accompanied by a lack of discipline at that parent’s house in an effort to become the favored parent or to make the time with the children “special.”

When you are the custodial parent, it can be extremely frustrating.  James Lehman, MSW at the Empowering Parents has an excellent article on this situation here.  The thrust of Mr. Lehman’s article is that, as the custodial parent, you should shift your focus away from the other parent’s behavior.  Do not make the shift so jolting on the children.  When they return from the Disneyland parent’s house, give the children half an hour or so to unwind, unpack,  maybe watch a little TV or get a snack rather than immediately ordering them to start cleaning up their room.  Do your absolute best to be an outstanding parent by keeping a routine for the children including bedtime, family meals, chores, and homework.  Whenever possible, encourage family activities as well as individual time with each child.  Have a game night (there is a reason the families on the boxes of those board games always look so happy).

If you still have the relationship where you can, you should try to talk with the other parent about how their actions are affecting the children.  Sometimes a person who has never been the primary caregiver is completely lost as to how to handle situations when the children come over for the weekend.  They compensate by spending a lot of money.  This parent may not even realize there is a problem.  The more the two of you can do to present a stable, united front to the children, the better it will be for the children.

Stability and consistency help ease a child’s feelings of anxiety and loss over the breakup of his/her parents.  It is not easy to be the strong one, and you may often feel like “the bad guy,” but you have to think about the long-term good of your child.  If you have more questions, contact the Alford Law Office.

Photo courtesy of Andy Castro