Our Blog Aims to Inform the Community Contact the Columbia Family Law Group with Any Questions You Might Have

It's the Way You Say It

In both mediation and co-parent coordinator training we teach parents to speak to each other in a different way. What am I talking about? You guessed it. We’re trying to get parents to undo what is often years of speaking, texting and emailing each other in a disrespectful way. It’s the eye rolling, foot tapping, insulting, innuendos, and responses before the other person has even finished his or her sentence. It’s emailing in all caps with lots of exclamation points. It’s giving the same answer over and over again or refusing to answer the other parent’s question at all. Most parents don’t even realize that they are doing it. So, before you head down the high conflict custody road here are some basic tips for communicating with the other parent:

  1. Have an agenda. If you have several things to talk about with your co-parent, make a bullet point list and send it. Say, these are the issues that I would like to discuss with you. If you have items you would like to add to the agenda please let me know. Limit your meeting time. Meet in a public place if you have to. Having an agenda keeps parents from getting off track and discussing things they don’t need to be discussing. Having the agenda serves as a way to get back on track.
  2. Keep it short. The longer your email or text the more likely it is you’ve said something you shouldn’t have. Always reread your emails before sending to make sure you haven’t said more than you need to.
  3. Avoid feelings/keep it factual. This isn’t the time to go into how he made you feel when he left you suddenly for another woman and it isn’t the time to cast judgment on him because he still doesn’t have a job. Keep communication factual and to the point.
  4. Our son, our daughter, our children. This child is not just yours or hers this child belongs to both of you. Always refer to your child as “our” instead of my or your.
  5. Co-parent, Sam or Tim’s Dad—We do not refer to the other parent as “him” or “her”. Him or her has a name. Him or her is your child’s other parent. Refer to that person respectfully as Julie, Sarah’s mom, or my co-parent.
  6. Let me think about it. If your first reaction is to say no or hell no then a more appropriate response is “Let me think about it” Then, think about it and reframe your response in a factual way as to why you disagree with the other parent’s proposal.
  7. Proposal/Counter Proposal. The other parent makes a proposal. Maybe they want Timmy two hours early on Thanksgiving. Instead of just saying no your job as the skilled negotiating co-parent that you are is to make a counter proposal. This one is hard but in business we make offers and counter offers. With co-parenting it is exactly the same.
  8. Don’t bring up the past. Bringing up the past resolves nothing. Try to look forward, be positive, and be grateful you have a child that you can negotiate over.
  9. Please and Thank you. Jim dropped off Sarah’s cleats in time for practice. Say Thank you. You would like to pick up Sarah 30 minutes early next week, so you can take her to a play. Say Please. Simple words and courtesy go a long way.
  10. Say Sorry. You were 15 minutes late for pick-up because you got caught in traffic. You missed Sarah’s t-ball game. You forgot Jimmy’s lunch and your co-parent ended up taking him lunch at school. Say you’re sorry. You are still a team and it is important to act like one.