Often times, couples who are divorcing are focused on the task at hand. However, the divorce process takes a long time, and being divorced will last much longer. It is a good idea for couples who share children or even have friends in common to decide on how they want to set boundaries during and after the divorce. Setting new boundaries can help divorcing couples transition from “ex spouse” to “divorced person.” An ex spouse is still subject to the dynamics that dictated the marriage. A divorced person, on the other hand, has a new and different relationship with the ex. It takes some time to define and navigate this new relationship, however, most people find setting boundaries after divorce is an investment that is worth it.
Physical Boundaries After Divorce
“Physical boundaries” can mean many different things to different couples. Some couples, for example, may set their physical boundaries as agreeing never to be in the same room at the same time. This can make co-parenting tricky. However, for some families, it really is a better approach. Other families may set the boundary at not entering each others’ homes during kid exchanges. Still other families are fine with hosting their child’s other parent inside their home, but only after they knock and are invited to enter by the home occupant. As the guest in the home, the divorced person should take the requisite steps to act like a guest. Guests don’t rummage through the refrigerator. They don’t help themselves to cookies on the counter. Guests refrain from looking through the mail. Respecting each other’s new spaces is part of the separation process.
Another perspective on physical boundaries has to do with where the parents live. While not considered “standard” in divorce decrees for couples with children, some couples agree to set a physical boundary regarding where parents both will live. For example, parents may agree to remain living within 7 miles of each other until the children reach the age of majority.
Personal Boundaries After Divorce
Personal boundaries are essential in any relationship. In the case of couples who are divorcing, setting personal boundaries is somewhat more challenging, as the couple transitions to single people sometimes, but not always, sharing children. Personal boundaries may change over the years, as the parties become more secure in their new status, and children become young adults. Personal boundaries could include agreeing not to introduce the children to a new special someone until the parties have been in a relationship for at least a year, or until the children are over the age of ten, for example. The parties may agree not to have overnight guests when they have custody of the children.
Personal boundaries may also include agreeing the new spouse will not attend school conferences or join the same church choir as the ex spouse. Of course, setting personal boundaries can go both ways. For some families, including the new spouse as a bonus parent may make more sense. Often, these decisions depend on the history of the couple and the length of time since the decision to divorce.
Communication Boundaries After Divorce
For couples without children, each person may choose to go on with their lives without ever speaking to each other again. Couples with children, however, will be tied forever. From school plays to college graduation to the birth of grandchildren, these couples especially should consider their boundaries. When speaking with each other about the children, keep the focus on the children. No need to dish about your favorite sports team, or your latest office crush (unless this somehow impacts the children or parenting time). Keeping the communication about the things you share in common sets a clear boundary and redefines your relationship.
Especially in the early weeks and months, couples may find themselves slipping into old communication patterns. When things feel like they may be coming off the rails, consider how you would respond if the person you were talking to wasn’t your ex. Would you manufacture an excuse to get off the phone? Ask them to stop yelling? Respond with a nasty dig of your own? Make the conscious decision to respond to them the same way you would to a coworker or friend.
While it may be tempting and appear easier at the moment, don’t use your children to send messages back and forth. You wouldn’t trust an eight year old to tell your coworker you needed to reschedule a work meeting, would you? As the adult, take advantage of cell phones, text messaging, and email to communicate grown up issues with your child’s other important grown up.
Financial Boundaries After Divorce
Your finances are your business. Period. This is true even if some of your financial situation is directly attributable to child support or alimony you receive from your child’s other parent. It is also true if your financial situation is directly impacted by child support or alimony obligations. It is none of their business how much money you have. Nor is what you spend your money on their business. Further, it is not their business, how you prioritize savings, or any other aspect of your financial future. Child support and alimony are provided for by law. Neither receiving nor paying child support or alimony gives a person the right to know the intimate details of another’s finances.
Is Divorce in Your Future
If you think divorce might be in your future, contact the attorneys at Fait & DiLima. Our attorneys focus exclusively on family law issues. We advocate tirelessly on behalf of our clients, working toward solutions that will work best for each family unit. Every family is different. Let our dedicated family law attorneys put our experience to work for you and your family. Call (301) 251-0100 today.