Can you have a healthy relationship with your ex – and what are the benefits?

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Getty Images/iStockphoto/Solovyova - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Divorce is often associated with acrimony, not the best basis for any sort of relationship afterwards.

Chartered Legal Executive Donna Hart

Chartered Legal Executive Donna Hart - Credit: Archant

If you have children together it is really worth trying to maintain a civil relationship. Chartered Legal Executive Donna Hart offers her tips to help you face the future ‘together apart’ in a positive way.

Take your time

Divorce is sometimes likened to experiencing a death; you need time to grieve and let go of your life before you separated. You will feel many emotions, from anger and fear to optimism and liberation, often all mixed in together. Counselling sessions or exercise classes can help you to feel more optimistic. When you’re ready, you can start to rebuild your relationship with your ex, albeit on a different basis than before.

Give it time

Divorce is not always cut and dried. When you have had a home together for a long time, there may be possessions to sort out. Often you will have become close to the other’s family - some family members may want to stay in touch with your ex. Such relationships often come to an end in time; it is better that they naturally peter out rather than be forced to stop.

The process

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Divorce proceedings can take longer than you think - there’s no such thing as a ‘quickie’ divorce! The case may be complex, you may be waiting for responses from third parties such as valuers, actuaries or CAFCASS. And your ex may not wish to move matters along as quickly as you; it could be that they’re not as prepared emotionally as you so try to be sympathetic. If you’re frustrated, be open with your lawyer, don’t harangue your ex.

Communicate and collaborate

If you can, communicate with each other by phone or face to face as emails or texts can sometimes be misconstrued. Try not to let emotions spill over; keep conversations factual and stick to the point. Collaborating on decisions such as which school the children might go to or who they will be with on Christmas Day will be really constructive for all of you. Check out apps like OurFamilyWizard, which provide a central platform to connect and share family information in a secure space. This can help the non-resident parent to be involved in the daily life of their children.

Focus on the good things in your lives together

You got together because you liked each other - don’t dismiss your history just because you aren’t together now. One day your children will want you both at their wedding – do you really want them worrying about where each of you are going to sit? You may also eventually share grandchildren! Your children should feel comfortable for both of you to enjoy the grandparenting experience.

Don’t confuse your children 

While it is good to stay amicable, you still need to be clear about boundaries so your children understand the reality. Many children, especially early on, want their parents to be reconciled. If you spend a lot of time together, they may hold on to false hope. There are plenty of books available that can help children deal with divorce so invest in one or two. Importantly, never belittle your ex to your children - no child will thank you for this.

Be realistic

Some people manage to stay good friends after divorcing, but this is a tough ask and you should only consider this if you really feel that it’s genuine! Having a healthy relationship doesn’t necessarily mean going for coffee every week but it does mean you can have a pleasant exchange during handovers or telephone calls.