When emotions are raw and overwhelming, it’s important to slow down before responding or reaching out to the other spouse/partner/co-parent. Tone matters and is often more important than the info being shared on any given topic. Existing communication dynamics are often a factor in the separation, and it takes practice to learn new communication tools.

  • If you have questions about how to approach your separation, then consult an attorney preferably before separation, and one trained in collaborative divorce. Family and friends may give advice with good intentions, but it may be wrong or not apply to your situation.
  • Is the topic worthy of discussion with the other person? Separation is an intense time when the past, present, and future intermingled. Topics about the present and future tend to be more productive than rehashing the past or issues that lead to the separation.
  • Approach discussions with a problem-solving mentality. Focus on the issues and do not engage in name-calling, threats, accusations, ultimatums, or dictate terms. You are free to disagree, but briefly explain why and keep focused on the issue not unrelated opinions, facts, or beliefs. See Bill Eddy’s highconflictinstitute.com/biff-responses.
  • If communication has been challenging, then start with discussing smaller issues to build momentum and practice a more productive communication style before discussing more impactful issues when emotions tend to run high.
  • Be accountable for your actions and communication. If you are feeling overwhelmed, down, or angry, then consider counseling to help process your emotions so they do not negatively impact yourself and those around you, especially children. Avoid involving family and friends in your separation or exposing them to intense feelings. This may reinforce negative views of the other person which can interfere with sound decision-making necessary during separation. It also increases the likelihood of children, even adult children, being exposed to negativity about a loved one.
  • When possible, communicate via email so you have a chance to really think about the issue and review the tone before sending it. If discussing in person, then write a list of points you think are relevant to the topic beforehand, take notes during the discussion, then follow up with an email the same day with what was discussed and/or agreed.


Danielle Paradis

Kurtz & Paradis, PLLC

Vancouver, WA