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How do I communicate with my partner during a separation or divorce?

Communicating with your partner can be difficult during a separation or divorce.

Generally, however, the ‘angrier’ the process, the higher the cost and the longer it will take. That’s why all the experts in our network — from Lawyers to Accountants — believe in de-escalation.

As Lawyer Anna Cruckshank says, communication is ‘the number one element that drives whether a separation is dealt with in a sensible way that gets the best outcome for the parties or whether it goes off the rails.’

So, how can you communicate more effectively? Below are some tips to help you navigate this process.

But before we start… your safety is paramount. If you are concerned about your partner’s potential reaction during and after a conversation, seek professional help first. If you’re in immediate danger, leave and call 000.

Have a plan for how the issue of separation or divorce is raised. The bottom line is that it’s a difficult conversation to have. Think about how both you and your partner would want to be communicated with and what support you will both need after the conversation.

If you have children, put their interests first. That means both parents are modelling good behaviour by being respectful, calm and positive about each other. How should you discuss a separation with your kids? We chat with a senior psychologist in this podcast.

Meet in public places. This could help you both control emotions and maintain an amicable conversation.

Try to keep an open mind when you’re having a conversation and actively listen to your partner’s concerns and thoughts. That means asking questions rather than making judgements. Davide Di Pietro, Clinical Social Worker at the Resilience Centre Family Clinic, explains receptive thinking ‘can really turn things around, even in cases where there has been high conflict in the past.

Be willing to hear ‘no’. It is reasonable to expect that you will not agree on everything during the separation. This is a long process that requires a lot of negotiation to come to a fair and equitable agreement. ‘Maintaining an element of respect for each other’ and a realistic understanding can help you move forward, says Anna Cruckshank, Managing Director at Aubrey Brown.

Think before you respond. Avoid responding to messages or emails when you’re feeling emotional because this will tend to push you into an escalation cycle. And in a legal sense, when matters escalate they tend to cost time, money and stress.

Look after yourself. Take care of your mental health and if you need to speak with someone independent, reach out to a counsellor or psychologist in your area. We can help connect you with experts in our network — just contact us for their details.

Find someone to communicate for you. If communication with your partner is just not possible, then use a representative to communicate for you. Depending on the stage you are at, this could be a trusted family member, friend, Mediator or Lawyer.

A separation guide character parent with their child

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