As a family law attorney, I am often asked, “How can I avoid a nasty divorce or custody dispute?” The answer I usually give? You do you – but don’t forget how important it is maintaining healthy relationships with the others, parents, or soon to be ex. Don’t just look at your history; consider relationship strategies that you would employ with a friend, relative or co-worker as well. Not only could this save your relationship, but in the event that a conflict does occur, you are better prepared to handle the stressors that accompany it.
To develop a balance between your needs and the needs of others in healthy relationships, define your boundaries. Begin the process by defining what you are attempting to protect. The first thing that might come to mind is to protect your sanity, especially in heated situations. Take yourself out of the immediate situation and think on a larger scale. What are your core needs? What’s important to you and the children? What are your long-term goals? What develops your character? What reflects your genuine self? Although addressing these questions is a lifelong endeavor of development, once you have defined those core needs, then you can learn how to protect those needs by setting boundaries.
Managing conflict is also a vital skill in maintaining a healthy relationship. From your co-workers to your significant other, from your friends to your family, conflict can exist in every relationship. Conflict can be both constructive and destructive. If your eyes are open to these behaviors and conflict expectations are managed respectfully, conflict may actually bring individuals closer together.
How about scheduling family meetings? For example, when addressing financial issues, some couples agree to have a once a month financial meeting to review family goals and hurdles. Respectful management of conflict may save your relationship.
However, should a separation occur, consider the following legal implications:
- Parents will find that the foundation to co-parenting is increased communication and conflict management without involving the children. Should a parent be unable to co-parent, then the Court may limit or reduce his or her parenting time or appoint a Parenting Coordinator to assist with communication strategies in high conflict cases.
- When discussing the day-to-day financial impact of separation, Spousal Support and Child Support may need to be addressed. In the absence of mindful conversations of the financial needs of each spouse and the children, more time, money, and stress can be spent if the matter goes to Court. Wouldn’t you rather put the money into a college savings account?
- Property division decisions can become a nightmare absent a respectful approach to conflict. Not only do parties try to hide assets but arguing over items with minimal to no value can increase attorney fees and litigation costs.
Reducing chaos and emphasizing a calm, measured approach to a conflict can create a productive discussion in which individuals have a better chance of resolution. At the core of maintaining healthy relationships is the self-awareness that comes with a “You do you” and “I do me” approach but also recognizing that a thoughtful response to conflict may be the saving grace that you have been missing.