Divorce attorneys frequently refer clients to me when they’re having trouble working with them. They find that each party is stuck in the anger and resentment from the past and this prevents them from moving forward through the negotiations of their settlement. One party does something to the other and the other retaliates. Each may feel that they were wronged and want to talk about that instead of working toward solutions. How can you help couples focus on working together?
1. Establish rules and boundaries in the beginning. When you begin working with your clients, go through a list of rules that establish the way you will work together. Include the following:
- Be respectful to each other which means speak in a respectful tone, don’t discuss conflicts from the past and don’t interrupt each other.
- Treat your ex as if they were a colleague or coworker. This will help clients manage their emotions better as they come to understand that going forward they won’t have to live with this person, they just have to work with them for the good of the children.
- How you feel about your ex is less important than how you act toward him or her.
2. Encourage clients to determine their priorities. Each client has different priorities. For example, a client may not get the best financial arrangement but that might not be as important to them as the custody schedule. It will help avoid frustration and minimize
wasted time if your clients can be clear with what their priorities are.
3. Help clients focus on their children. Children must be the focus when going through a divorce. Parents need to know that children will fare better when their parents get along. If they truly want the best for their children, they need to put their own needs aside and work with their ex.
4. Discuss with your clients the importance of not speaking negatively about the other parent in front of the children. Children are a part of each of their parents and love both of them. When one parent speaks badly about the other, the child is negatively impacted. Help clients understand that their ex may not have been a good spouse but still can be a good parent.
5. Let your clients know that this will end. At some point, your clients will be divorced. At that point, they won’t feel so overwhelmed. They’ll start a new chapter in their life and it will be better. If you can help them see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, they will be more able to handle the steps to get there.
If you’ve tried these techniques and are still struggling with a client, you can refer them to a therapist who specializes in working with clients going through a divorce. The therapist can either work with them as a couple or one of them individually.
Divorce is one of the most stressful times in a person’s life. If you can help your clients decrease their stress during the divorce process, and learn to work with their ex, you will be improving your ability to work with these clients while also helping a family to heal.
Learn more about Jill Kaufman in her The MarketSpace online office.