Written by attorney Matthew James Slack

5 tips to ending a marriage on good terms

It has become more important than ever in today’s society to ensure that spouses stay on good terms after ending their marriage. Even if a couple is married for a short time, assets, liabilities, property, friends, and family become a part of the marriage and are all affected by a divorce. This is especially true when children are involved.

All of these problems are compounded further depending on the length of the marriage. The ability to stay on good terms with an ex is incredibly important in being able to make sure each of you enjoy all the things you had when you were married. There are, of course, varying degrees of civility, but here are some tips to help try to make sure the process resolves amicably.

Do Not Put Your Children in the Middle

This tip is put first for many reasons. Children are the light of our lives and mean the world to us. They are the most important thing that you and your spouse share in common. Putting children in the middle and fighting over them as if they were another asset or property will create hard feelings all around.

This is not to say that divorce does not have a profound effect on children. Custody is something that should absolutely be discussed by you and your spouse prior to dissolution of your marriage, but the children should not be the focus or the reason why you are getting divorced. Having the attitude of "you can take everything, but I want the kids" will not likely go over well with your spouse and create a bigger fight.

The same, and usually better results, can be obtained by sitting down with your spouse and working out some arrangement that both of you can live with. This not only maintains a better relationship with your soon-to-be ex, but will also allow your children to better cope with the change. If children are made the central feature of a divorce and custody is hotly contested, the children may feel that they are the reason you and your spouse are divorcing. In addition, maintaining an amicable relationship with your spouse regarding child custody will generally result in being able to maintain a more consistent and fruitful relationship with your children.

Divide Assets Before Divorce

After children, the next big thing that causes animosity between a couple is their assets. Who gets the house? The car? The dog?

Attempting to sit down and have a rational, peaceful discussion with your spouse about who gets what will lead to a smoother and better relationship after dissolution of your marriage. Understandably, this may be easier said than done. It may surprise you, however, on what your spouse actually wants and does not want. You may find that your spouse thinks the huge truck you have both been driving around in for years is ridiculous and would rather buy an electric vehicle. Your spouse also may actually think Fluffy barks too much and was more of a cat person all along.

In addition to talking about assets, you and your spouse should also discuss the dreaded topic of liabilities. Liabilities are those bills, mortgages, and loans you have accumulated throughout your marriage. They do not disappear when a marriage does. Both you and your spouse will be liable for them. Sitting down with your spouse and attempting to pay off what you can before a divorce and then discussing who has the ability, and who should, pay for certain debts is extremely helpful.

It is understandable that finances may be the sore spot that caused the divorce, but it must be discussed to some degree because the collections companies will definitely discuss it. Whatever your situation may be, talking about what goes with whom will take care of a lot of the hassle and fighting up front. It will allow you to get through the process quicker and have a better relationship with your ex afterwards.

Attempt Counseling

It sounds cliché to recommend marriage counseling, but it does work to a certain extent. Counseling can often times bring out feelings and thoughts that a spouse has been holding onto for years and causing resentment. The release of these feelings or thoughts is sometimes all it takes to open up a road to a better understanding, and relationship, between you and your spouse.

Counseling also forces spouses to confront head-on their issues with one another. While in a marriage, it may be hard to say what one thinks of another’s actions or attitude because one may be trying to ignore it or want to maintain a peaceful existence. Counseling can provide a safe environment to confront the problems you have with your spouse and problems they may have with you. This can be therapeutic and help to come to an understanding of where your spouse is coming from.

Counseling is also a bonding experience you and your spouse will share. This can strengthen a relationship because you and your spouse are the only ones that have been through the counseling and share a unique experience. Even if you and your spouse still decide to divorce, what is discussed at counseling sessions will often help maintain a peaceful, civil relationship between you and your ex.

Do Not Bad Mouth Your Spouse

Attempting to belittle, besmirch, or ruin the name of your ex or soon-to-be ex gains you nothing and only creates a barrier to resolving the issues you may have during dissolution. While a healthy discussion with friends, family, and your spouse about the issues in your marriage can be helpful, outright name calling, lying, and blaming only compounds the problems.

While it may make you feel good temporarily to express your anger towards your spouse in such a manner, it will hurt you in the long run because your spouse is going to be much less likely to deal with you civilly and maintain a working relationship. This could also harm your relationship with family and friends who may see the other spouses side more favorably.

This is an especially important tip when children are involved because they are much more able to be influenced than adults. Bad mouthing your spouse in front of the children spoils the relationship between the children and their other parent. Often times, the issues that cause a divorce are also not things children can understand fully and lead children to take a different view of marriage and relationships as a whole.

The concept of not bad mouthing your spouse in front of your children is so important that courts may actually put an order in a final judgment of dissolution prohibiting such speech. Again, there is no real benefit to talking badly about your spouse and it can cause a huge detriment during and after divorce proceedings so avoid it at all costs.

Try to Stay in Contact with One Another

Communication is key. Communication may be the reason your marriage ended in the first place. Maintaining at least some communication between you and your ex is essential to staying on good terms after a divorce. With all the possible communication tools available, this should not be an issue. Talking in person or on the phone is the best way to communicate in any situation because there is less room for confusion and misunderstanding. But even texting, e-mailing, social media, and other forms of electronic communication will help to foster a better relationship between you and your spouse. It is not necessary that you talk every day, or even once a week, but keeping your spouse up to date on what is happening can help ease the transition into single life as well as bring closure.

Open communication may be difficult at first because of emotions, but easing into it can be beneficial to both parties. As time moves on, it may be that communication becomes less frequent. This is a natural part of moving on and it is healthy. If communication has tapered off naturally, then it is likely that you and your ex will still be on good terms and you and your ex will live happier lives.

Communication is especially important when children are involved. Communicating on visitation and travel is important and as well as major decisions such as medical issues, education, and finances. Courts will often order parents to collaborate on major decisions in a child’s life. Communication with a child through social media such as Facebook and Twitter as well as communication via a webcam is a cheap and easy way to ensuring a good relationship between you, your child, and your spouse.

These tips serve as a general guideline on how to maintain a healthy, working relationship through and after divorce. These steps will also help your attorney during dissolution, custody, and other proceedings. Some of this advice may not apply to you, or it may need to be modified to your situation. Whatever your situation may be, maintaining a good relationship with your ex is healthy and advantageous for you. Though some of these things may be hard to accomplish or implement because of emotions or a difficult spouse, some of them will likely work in part. Any step you can take to maintain a good relationship with your spouse is beneficial in the long run.

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