The Importance of Getting Along With Your Ex After Divorce


Attorney Brad Tengler and Geoff Carter talk about the benefit of being able to effectively communicate with your soon-to-be  ex spouse during  a divorce – especially when children are involved.

September 17, 2013

Recording: Law Talk does not give legal advice. It is a source of information for people suffering the effects of divorce or who have ended long term relationships. If you need legal advice please retain an attorney in your own jurisdiction.


Brad: Good evening folks and welcome to Divorce Talk Radio. This is Attorney Brad Tengler here in the studio with Geoff Carter. Geoff, how’s it going?


Geoff: It’s going great. How are you doing?


Brad: Doing great too.


Geoff: Outstanding.


Brad: Tonight’s topic of conversation is The Importance of Getting Along with Your Ex.


Geoff: Dum-dum-dum. That’s a tough one.


Brad: It is a tough one in so many ways.


Geoff: When you say ex you mean ex-wife only or you mean ex in general?


Brad: Ex anything. Ex spouse, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, whatever it is. It is huge when you have kids.


Geoff: I was just going to say that. I was going to say does it really matter if you don’t?


Brad: Nope it doesn’t. If you don’t have kids, who cares. They can be dead to you. But if you do have kids they’re certainly not going to be dead to you. They’re going to be around, in the picture unless they’re a deadbeat mom or dad.


Geoff: Right, which is we all hope…


Brad: Unless you’re a deadbeat mom or dad.


Geoff: Right. We don’t want that. No more.


Brad: If both parents are involved with their kids you’re going to have to be dealing with your ex all the time and in terms, from the legal perspective it will save you an enormous amount of cost. It will save you enormous amount of emotional cost if you’re getting along with your ex and we can talk about a variety of different examples of how it can save you a lot of money.


Geoff: Now I know, for those that are listening, that some of you are going to say, “It’s not a problem. We get along now. Blah, blah, blah.” Then there’s other people that are going to say, “There’s no way in hell I’m going to get along with my ex,” which is just because there’s a lot of animosity, whatever that comes along the way. If they cheated or whatever the case may be. But it just is so much easier and it’s so much better for the children involved because, I know my brother and I still remember notes and fights or whatever with our parents because they just, they didn’t care about who was watching. We’re like little sponges watching the TV. Like we hear every word. You don’t think you do. I was probably nine or ten when it happened. But I remember certain things word for word and different things that we had to go through because they were so mad that one left the other one, or whatever. It wasn’t like, “Now it’s over. Let’s make the best of the kids and prevent any problems in the future.”


Brad: I think people, I’m not saying as a divorce attorney, I’m not saying don’t be, not be realistic. If you just broke up you’re probably not going to be getting along if there’s still emotions on one side for whatever reasons. Especially if there was an affair or something like that. People are not going to get along and that makes sense. But if it’s two years down the road, if it’s a year down the road, if it’s five, sometimes five years down the road. If it’s five years down the road you are just causing yourself problems.


If there’s something you can do to help make the relationship, for lack of a better word, run smoothly. Interestingly one of our co-hosts Emily McGrath, she in one of her therapeutic podcasts was talking about a certain prayer that she has her clients say. Something along the lines of basically you apologize to them and you actually tell them in the prayer that you love them, not in a romantic kind of way. It’s kind of cleansing for you. This is not a therapeutic podcast. We’re not talking about that kind of stuff but practically speaking, from a litigation perspective if you’re constantly at the throat of your ex-spouse and you’ve got kids, you’re just causing yourself problems.


First of all how does it cause problems in court? Well first of all if you can’t talk about things you’re going to have to argue them in front of a judge. That means you’re going to have to file petitions. That means you’re going to have to get trial dates. That means you’re going to have to have hearings. That means you’re going to have to have an attorney prepare for the hearings and it’s just going to cost you a ton of money.


Geoff: Because it’s stretching everything out. It takes longer to do everything.


Brad: It takes longer and it’s expensive. If you can’t agree about transportation, it’s going to be expensive because you’re going to have to argue about that in front of the judge rather than people saying, it should be 50, 50.


Geoff: I’m pretty sure also, I mean I know you as a person, I can see yourself, like if you’re defending somebody and they keep trying to argue, I’m pretty sure you try to prove to them like all right, “These are some things that you could work on or whatever to make it easier and you should not like just go at it all upset.” I’m pretty sure you also help out, try to smooth things over the best you can. Not saying you’re taking the other person’s side. I’m not saying that but at the same time.


Brad: Well yes and no. My job as an attorney is not to be a therapist. My job is to explain the law to my clients. Have them make decisions based on the law and then argue their position. If there is a position that is unreasonable, it’s my job, at least in the eyes of the law, I mean I don’t agree with everything in the law but that doesn’t matter because that’s what the law is. My job is to explain the law to them.


If they had an unreasonable perspective, to explain why that is unreasonable in terms of how the court will address it and to try to not argue about everything in court where I am 99.99 percent certain of the outcome. Obviously, however there’s a lot of gray areas where people can, if they are able to discuss with each other they can save a ton of time, a ton of costs, a ton of emotional costs so they can move on with their lives and function.


Geoff: How do you tell somebody that’s mad about their, what do you tell them? What are some suggestions, I mean…


Brad: I usually sympathize with them because their emotions are usually legit. They have feelings about their ex but that’s not the point. The point is how do we problem solve this? How do we save you money?


Geoff: Right, that’s what I’m getting at.


Brad: How do we save you financial costs? They might be dead on about their feelings about their ex. If there’s been a breakup and there was an affair or something like that people are going to have very strong feelings. That makes sense but it doesn’t make sense then, doesn’t make sense, C-E-N-T-S either to bring those emotions into litigation when it’s just going to cause you hurt and expense.


Geoff: And the kids.


Brad: The only people who get rich out of the situation are attorneys, and the children. Absolutely. Obviously there are exceptions to this kind of stuff. If you have a partner or ex-partner who is completely unreasonable or was abusive and continues to be abusive. Then there is limited things that you can do. I mean, I’m trying to think of…


Geoff: An example?


Brad: I’ve seen situations where finally, after a relationship ends, sometimes when the parties still discuss they continue on how they dialogued in their own relationship so if someone was abusive and manipulative and domineering, the other one was weaker and always let the other person get their way, that sometimes continues after a divorce has happened.


Let’s say someone wasn’t paying child support for years and years and the custodial parent who is the mother comes to me and says, “Hey I want to file, I want to get child support now.” The other person might resist paying any child support so you’ve got to litigate. You’ve got to be aggressive in those situations because she’s been bullied for years.


Those are not the kind of situations I’m talking about. I’m talking about when there are things that people really tend to try to work out and solve together as they think about their kids.


Geoff: I think, I mean the way I think about law or court, especially divorce when I’ve heard different people that have friends, whatever, it’s just like, “You’ll see me in court.” It gets all aggressive; you know what I’m saying? I feel like that’s where a lot of people look at it is it’s all about hurting each other and stuff. It shouldn’t be about that at all. I know you’ve said this before and I know it’s not always like that but I just see a lot of people, “Oh, you’re going to see me in court? It’s over,” whatever. I feel like that’s, if you’re just going to go at everything in anger and pain and revengeful type stuff it’s just not, it’s going to make it ugly in the long run. Because you wouldn’t want that done to you. I know that whatever he or she did to you, cheating or money or whatever the problem is, it’s not worth the argument and the pain it’s going to cause in the long run.


Brad: Some arguments are. If you’re not getting child support and you need child support and you’ve got four kids to feed those things are worth arguing. But what’s not worth arguing is when you can sit down
at the table, both be reasonable, both not storm out and you hear stories about people storming out of mediation and it’s like six, seven, eight years after your relationship has ended. Just not appropriate. Sit down, talk, spend 50 bucks, 100 bucks to really try to solve the problem together and with an experienced mediator who knows the law and knows the courtrooms and knows how everything works. That is what saves people a ton of emotional costs and a ton of financial costs.


Geoff: I have a question for you. How do you deal with people that have to work with maybe an abusive ex-girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, husband? How do you go about trying to get along with somebody that used to pummel you and throw you against the wall, choke you or whatever physically, even mentally? Some people I know, have extreme PTSD just by things of being belittled all the time. Calling different words we don’t have to say on the radio but all that stuff. How do you deal with that? How do you convince somebody to get along with somebody…


Brad: Those are exceptions. Those are not situations where you can get along with someone. I mean, the things you can do, actually I’ve had some interesting cases where you have someone on the other side who’s an abuser. You’re not there to negotiate with them. If they hurt your client, if they beat up your client and they did it in front of the children. There’s certain things that are not going to happen, you’re not going to let happen in court. You’re going to make sure they go to anger management classes. You’re going to make sure there’s supervised visitation. That’s your job as an attorney.


But are they going to get visitation ultimately if they do those things? Sure. I mean it’s very difficult to ever get visitation denied outright unless maybe a therapist says it can’t happen right now. Even a therapist is going to say, “It can’t happen right now. It will happen if X or A and B and C happens.” In those kinds of situations you don’t negotiate so you can’t get along with your ex. In fact that person, she might not be at all wanting to talk to her ex at all about anything nor should she because she came out of an abusive relationship.


That being said there are other ways to be reasonable like if they go through anger management classes. If they have gone through some kind of therapy.


Geoff: Counseling.


Brad: Counseling or something like that they’re going to get to see their kids. To fight that is just going to cause you a lot of anxiety because ultimately a court is not going to deny them the ability to see their own children.


Geoff: Another random question like I always do. Is there a situation where if somebody was abused, do they have to appear in court or can the attorney go for them? I was just wondering.


Brad: A lot of times people get attorneys that show up for them in court.


Geoff: I’m saying if you’re in fear of something. If it was somebody that was abusive, “I just don’t want to see him. He used to beat the daylights out of me.”


Brad: I tell my clients not to come to court all the time. They have to come to court for hearings.


Geoff: That’s what I mean. So you have to come.


Brad: They’ve got to come for that kind of stuff. They’ve got to come and testify.


Geoff: I was just wondering.


Brad: But you know, I mean there’s bailiffs there. You’re there with your client. But it is scary for people in those kinds of situations because it brings back all the emotions. But that’s why they should be going to therapy and taking care of themselves, thinking correctly about the situation. All those kinds of things. Outside of those kinds of extreme circumstances, getting along with your ex saves you a ton of money. You can work on your parenting agreement together, you can make mutual decisions about child related issues and save yourself a ton of costs in the long run.


Geoff: Real quick, not only just costs though because I [?] but stress too. Knowing, like the fact that we can call her ex-boyfriend or whatever about picking up the kids on time or say, “Can you have him a little bit longer or could we have him for certain holidays,” and the fact that they can talk. My girlfriend and her ex-boyfriend they talk like they never had a problem. They went through an ugly pass actually but they get along perfect to where they just, they talk to each other and the daughter’s 12 and they just, they meet together and say, “This is what I’ve noticed with her going on her. We should look out for these signs for different situations.”


It’s actually what I really like to see because a lot of people don’t have it that way. They communicate really well, it’s just like a friendship, they had a kid. I think that’s what people should definitely aim for eventually.


Brad: Kudos to them because that is the ideal kind of post-relationship relationship you want to have. You want to be able to work with the other person. It is going to do wonders for your children.


Geoff: I’m sure that takes time. Like I think she said it’s a couple of years before it became . . .


Brad: Like that.


Geoff: Yes. It took, because of the past what, now it’s definitely worth it especially with visitation because there’s times both her and I have to go do something and it’s, “Can you keep her for an extra hour?” or whatever it is and it’s, “No problem.” Well I like this. This was actually a very good one. It’s very good. Even if you don’t even have kids it’s good to get along with someone you dated for awhile, if you see them. I think.


Brad: Plus it upsets your new girlfriend.


Geoff: No kidding. The reason why I say that though is because I dated someone for three and a half years and she became really close with my grandma and they still talk and it doesn’t bother me at all. They hang out. They go out to lunch once in a, not every day but they go out like once in a few months and that doesn’t bother me and if I see her in the street or whatever I high five her, wave at her. More like a wave. I don’t do a good game or anything.


Brad: You’re just sweet, Geoff. You’re just sweet, man.


Geoff: It’s just good to avoid anger and aggression, I guess in everything in life. Everybody should just give hugs not drugs. Anyway, so what, this has been a good show.


Brad: I’m going to include that in one of my joint parenting [?].


Geoff: You should.


Brad: My point is that’s great on a personal level. Being able to get along with your ex when kids are not involved. I mean that’s being a good human being. But in the context of divorce litigation or any kind of family litigation when it’s really important is when you’ve got kids.


Geoff: This has been a good show. Now if somebody would like to call you for representation how do they do that? Or get a hold of you?


Brad: We are located at 515 North Court Street in Rockford, Illinois. We serve the Rockford area and the greater Chicago area and our number is 815-997-5200.


Geoff: Now also visit to find out more information on that. He has a lot of information on his website so all right, Brad. I had a good time.


Brad: Thanks, Geoff.


Geoff: All right.


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