A Guide to Smooth Communication in Family Law Matters

Smooth communication between parties is often vital to successful resolutions in family law matters, especially when dealing with children. Here's a guide with practical strategies to help you communicate:

1. When children are involved:

  • Child-centered approach: When children are involved, communication should center on their well-being. For instance, when discussing parenting time arrangements or changes, focus on your children by talking about their stability and emotional security, not just your own. 
  • Open dialogue and consistency: Improve your ability to make parenting decisions consistent with your children’s best interests through open communication. Use shared calendars to keep each other informed about children's activities and appointments. Transparency can show an interest in cooperation and limit unnecessary back-and-forth. 
  • Concise, structured, and monitored communication: Consider using co-parenting apps or any court-monitored platforms such as OurFamilyWizard to communicate.

2. When there’s a history of Domestic Violence:

Communicating in the shadow of domestic violence can be difficult and triggering. Often, communication is limited as the result of an order of protection, though safeguards can also be added to parenting plans to protect the physical and emotional health of an abused partner. For these reasons, such communications need a cautious approach:
  • Safety first: Choose secure communication channels. If necessary, opt for email or messaging platforms to maintain distance and safety. Alternatively, ask for a court monitored app to communicate. Someone who reaches out to berate or abuse may reconsider if they know they're being monitored. 
  • Limit live conversations: Escalations happen in live conversations. Consider writing instead of calling. Let calls go to voicemail. This may reduce stress and triggers and prevent retraumatization. 
  • Professional support: Get help from therapists or domestic violence advocates. Use grounding techniques like deep breathing to stay centered during emotionally charged conversations.

3. When emotions run high:

  • Stay calm and composed: Practice active listening to show understanding. Reflect back the other party's concerns to validate their emotions. For example, if the other party is frustrated about missed visitation, say, "It sounds like you're upset because you weren't able to see the children as planned."
  • Use "I" statements: Express feelings without assigning blame and sounding accusatory. This allows you to share your feelings constructively and inspires a more empathetic response. For instance, instead of saying, "You never consider my schedule when making plans," try saying, "I feel frustrated when I'm not consulted about scheduling changes."
  • Take breaks. If you see tensions rising, suggest breaks to cool off and come back to the discussion later. 

4. And don’t forget to document important communications.

  • Keep records of emails, text messages, and conversations. 
  • Clarify agreements in writing to avoid misunderstandings. Written records provide a reference point in case of future conflict. 
  • Consider platforms with features for tracking interactions. These include read receipts and message archiving that may improve transparency and communication. 
  • When in doubt, don’t forget to refer to an existing judgment for ground rules concerning communication.

5. Lastly, consider seeking professional help:

Family law attorneys at The Commons Law Center are here for you!

Using the above strategies and the provided examples will help you navigate communication issues, but if you’re considering affordable legal support, we’re here for you. At The Commons, we have family law attorneys who are ready to help you at any stage of your case, and even before you file. Click here to learn more about our affordable legal coaching program!

The Commons Law Center Blog is for information purposes only. It is not legal advice.

posted April 2, 2024

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