Divorce is the last thing any of us wants to think about, but when it’s inescapable, we want the best advice out there. In this excerpt from her book The New Rules of Divorce, available now from Simon & Schuster, matrimonial attorney Jacqueline Newman shares 10 practical tips for communicating with an ex during this tumultuous period.
As a divorce attorney, I often joke to clients that I am their most expensive shrink. Frequently, more time is spent with clients discussing strategy and what to say and how to say it than discussing the law or casework. It is not uncommon for me to role-play with my clients (out of the gutter, please) so I can coach them on how to have difficult or challenging conversations with their spouses without losing their cool or throwing their constructive approach out the window. Ultimately, you should remain optimistic throughout your divorce that you and your soon-to-be ex will learn to communicate effectively. I am not saying you two will be chatting like old friends tomorrow. But remember everyone is raw and scared during a divorce. As such, this can be the opportune time for you and your spouse to relearn how to speak to each other so your post-divorce life is not completely miserable. It can only help you and your children in the long run.
How you say things is important, but what you write him can be even more important.
Ten Rules For Emailing With Your Ex During (And Even After) Divorce
- Try to limit the topics to no more than three issues in an email. I find people do not tend to read or retain more than three points at a time.
- Number the points and separate each point by a space. If you number the points, you increase the odds of all three questions being answered, and spacing makes it seem less overwhelming than a huge ranting paragraph.
- Try to phrase your questions so answers of yes or no are possible. If you can get back a simple yes or no, you increase the odds of your questions being answered.
- Keep the three points short. If it takes someone more than one thumb swipe on their phone to read the whole email, the odds drop that your full email will be read.
- Try to use email for issues that do not need an immediate response. Use the phone for emergencies and figure email should have a window of twenty-four to seventy-two hours for response.
- Try to use neutral words because you need to assume that the written word will be taken in the worst tone possible.
- Don’t cc other people on the emails and suck them into your drama. That gives the response a bigger audience and will cause more reaction. (You can just forward it to your sister to read after you send it instead.)
- Try to write your emails at times of the day when you know he/she will read them. If you know your ex has a manager’s meeting every Tuesday at 8:30 a.m., do not write your emails during that time.
- Do not write an explosive email while he is spending parenting time with the kids.
- Try to end all emails on a positive note—even if you don’t mean it.
Excerpted from The New Rules of Divorce by Jacqueline Newman. Copyright © 2020 by the author. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
Jacqueline Newman is the managing partner of the divorce law firm Berkman Bottger Newman & Schein, LLP in New York City. She specializes in complex high net worth matrimonial cases and negotiating prenuptial agreements. Her practice consists of litigation, collaborative law, and mediation. Newman appears regularly as an expert commentator for television, print, and radio in places including The New York Times, New York Post, Business Insider, Time, USA TODAY, and Glamour.