Many conversations I have with clients start out with, “You will not believe what he just said!” What he (or she) just said often includes, not surprisingly, a few words you wouldn’t use in polite company along with name calling and wild accusations, like “You are crazy,” or “You have a mental health issue.”
When people are charged with emotions, they want to respond, to deny, to strike back, and to inflict pain, because pain has been inflicted on them.
My advice: Freeze. Do nothing.
A lawyer’s job includes our obligation to provide guidance and counsel. One of the best pieces of advice I can provide is to say, “If it doesn’t need a response, then don’t respond.” This is what I refer to as the Art of Not Responding. I tell my clients that unless this email requires a response because it relates to a childcare issue, a pick up time, a health issue, or other immediate concern, there is no need to respond and, if you choose to respond in kind in the heat of the moment, you will probably do more harm than good.
Divorce is emotionally charged and people going through that difficult process often say things that do nothing to improve the outcome. They also often forget that every communication may end up being read by a judge. There is no response to your spouse’s admonition for you to “Grow up!” that will satisfy them or make your life better. Rather, this is the perfect example of a statement that requires no response. So before you think of the perfect zinger to “throw” right back at your current or soon to be ex, consider the absence of a response as your best answer. In the end, by not responding, you will look more reasonable to the judge or guardian ad litem, you will avoid becoming even more upset by escalating charges and counter-charges, and you will regain control of the situation because it takes two to engage in a battle.
A wise judge once told me, “Just because you were invited to a fight, doesn’t mean you have to accept the invitation.” When you’re going through a divorce, these are words to live by.
The family law attorneys at Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal can help you manage the stress of communicating with your spouse or ex as you go through the legal process.