One of the components that make family law cases so much more stressful for everyone involved than other types of court cases, is the need to communicate. For example, if you are being charged by the State in a criminal case, you don’t need to (nor do you want to) communicate with the other side on the case. Similarly, if you are suing someone for personal injury, or for breaching a contract, you likely will have no need to communicate with that person. However, with family law cases, especially involving children, there is always going to need to be some form of open communication lines. This creates immense stress. There are a few ways to alleviate that stress.
Communication between divorcing parties is stressful
These interactions become so stressful not necessarily because anyone is being a pain in the butt (though that happens for sure), but just because every time you have to interact with the other parent some level of hurt feelings or trauma tends to resurface. This is particularly true in high conflict cases but can be true even in the best of situations. Even just having to call or send an innocuous email about an unimportant thing to your ex can get the blood going and spike some adrenaline. Over time, with regular exposure to this type of low-level stressor, it can start to wear on your quality of life.
Solutions to stressful communication between divorcing parties
The first solution to this issue and one most parents in a divorce or custody case nowadays use, is an app called “Our Family Wizard“. It really is the gold standard for parties to use to help with coordinating and communication. The value of this app is that it takes out the need for regular dialog about the ins and outs of the children’s daily needs. When your son has a baseball game, or band recital scheduled, instead of needing to pick up the phone and call the other party or send an email with all the details, the app allows you just to put it into a shared calendar so everyone knows the logistics. It also has components that allow you to share pertinent information without having to send a formal email or pick up the phone.
In high conflict custody cases, clear communication is a huge help
Our Family Wizard has become so popular that, in Oregon at least, most judges will order parents to use it in any high conflict or stressful case they see. This app doesn’t remove the need for all interaction, but it does cut down on the low-level difficult dialogs that plague most divorced couples. It also helps to remove the whole “he said/she said” dynamic. Where the mother might tell the father about the child’s soccer schedule, but the dad claims that she never communicated it to him. This app allows for a clear history showing what was, and what was not communicated which can really cut down on a lot of the need for future court modification or enforcement filings in some of the more high conflict cases.
Little things can reduce tension in communication between divorce parties
Another trick I learned from some of our local judges, which seems small but is actually fairly brilliant, is to change the contact information in your phone for your ex. Most people, after a difficult divorce, either just leave their ex under their real name on their contact list, or worse make a derogatory name. That can be fun and rewarding emotionally sometimes, but it also does nothing to reduce the tension in the required interactions.
An alternative is that both parties set the other parties’ ringtone and corresponding image to something that reminds them of a fond memory of their child. Or possibly set the background image when your ex calls to be a cute picture of your child. While seemingly small, this helps minimize the adrenaline spike felt during these regular calls and replaces it with a more pleasant emotional state. For any one interaction this isn’t a big deal, but over the course of 10, maybe 18 years it really does add up to a better quality of life. This is true even if your ex is a total nightmare to deal with. While you may not be able to change the fact that he or she calling you makes you really stressed, it can serve to reduce the level of stress you feel somewhat each time you get that type of call.
Keep in mind, everything you write may ultimately be heard by the family law judge
The last piece of advice I’ll give relates to truly difficult interactions. When you have an ex who is a professional gaslighter every time they contact you they make a point of inflaming the tensions and causing drama. It can be sooooooo difficult not to respond. The best advice I can give is to remember that in these truly high conflict cases, you probably will end up back in court at some point. Remember that anything you write in response to them, or that you post on Facebook, you are not writing to them or your friends, you are writing it to the judge who ultimately will hear your modification or contempt case. Be very careful about what you say. If you wouldn’t say it to a judge who is about to decide the fate of your children, then you probably shouldn’t type it in that email, or post it to Facebook.