Bar News - August 19, 2011
Communication Tips for Divorce Clients
By: Kimberly A. Kick
As most family law attorneys know, working with the divorcing client can be quite challenging. Even in cases where the soon to be ex-partners are trying to part ways amicably, communications can break down and emotions can begin to rule the day. It isnít easy to focus an individual whose behavior, actions and communications are being fueled by emotions. Here are some guidelines attorneys can use to help improve communications between the parties in a divorce.
|Kimberly A. Kick
Awareness of changing life roles. Among the challenges that the divorcing person is going to face is a change in their roles in life. No longer will the person be the wife or husband of so-and-so. With the end of the relationship comes an adjustment period where the individual has to figure out his new identity. When communications appear to be moving towards the irrational, try focusing him by acknowledging the transition he is going through and reminding him that it will be easier to get through if he keeps his integrity intact throughout the process.
Venting does not help. Allowing the person to engage in vengeful, negative communications benefit no one, including you. The client ends up continuing down the wrong path and you as a professional will be stuck with a client you can no longer deal with effectively. Stress the need to focus on what "is" and not allowing your client to speculate about the ex-partnerís motivation.
You may need to frequently remind your client that dealing with hurt feelings and anger isnít accomplished by giving these emotions free rein. It is important to work towards letting go of the hurt and anger. You may find it helpful to suggest a few sessions with a counselor to help get her through this transition.
Keep communications objective. Keep your client on task and focused on what needs to be done to avoid sidetracking into irrelevant areas. When children are involved this is more important than ever.
Children should not be intermediaries. Study after study details the negative, lasting effects of parental conflict on children, and remind your client of these damaging effects. Stress that a child is not to be used as an intermediary with an ex-partner.
Use tools for communication. There are many divorce tools available to assist professionals and the divorcing couple. This runs the gamut from software that helps figure out the finances, assists in developing parenting plans, and tracks expenses. Professional services can supplement these tools to provide emotional support, offer guidance on working with high-conflict couples and detail basic communication strategies, including how to write an objective email.
Using an objective divorce communication tool can help meet the needs of the children. Such tools can ensure that communications between the parents are recorded in one place, and cannot be changed, altered or deleted, including financial transactions. This will help focus each parent on communicating only necessary, relevant information. In this way the needs of the children can continue to be met post-divorce and the adults can move forward in their new lives.
Divorce is a life-changing event. Divorce attorneys are normally the first to see these individuals. Attorneys who help their clients successfully navigate the turbulent waters of communication will build a reputation as respected professionals in their communities.
Kimberly A. Kick, LCSW is a therapist who has worked with children and families of divorce for over 23 years. She developed and co-owns www.DivorceCommunications.com. She can be reached at Kim@DivorceCommunications.com.
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