In the event of separation communicating with your ex partner may be the last thing you want to do.  However, there are a number of reasons why communication, at least in the short term, must continue.

For most couples short term communication is necessary because relationship property has to be divided.  Where there is a child or children of the relationship, more long term communication is necessary.

The manner in which you communicate after separation is important because it can impact how decisions are made, both for your children and the division of your assets.

The following things may help you to communicate more effectively after separation:

  1. Establish objective criteria.
    • Focus any exchanges on what is in the best interests of your children or your objective goals such as reaching agreement on the division of property and moving on. 
  2. Avoid reliving prior disagreements. 
  3. Do not talk negatively about your ex partner to your children.
  4. Attend counselling and/or parenting through separation courses.
    • Parenting through separation is a free information programme to help you act in the best interests of your children when you separate.
    • The Family Court arranges free and confidential counselling for couples who are separating and need help reaching agreement on issues such as care arrangements for their children.
    • More information about these programmes can be found online at
  5. Get legal advice.
    • This will provide you with a clear understanding of your rights and obligations;
    • Assist you to shape your expectations around realistic frameworks; and
    • Ensure your interests are protected.

Today almost everyone communicates electronically.  Upon separation continuing to communicate in this way presents its own difficulties. Electronic communication is notorious for being misinterpreted and leading to unnecessary and unintended conflict.

Wherever possible you should try to communicate directly through face-to-face or telephone conversations.  This will reduce room for misinterpretation.

If direct communication is not possible or you prefer to communicate electronically then it is useful to bear in mind what can make this form of communication problematic.

Electronic communication is problematic for the following reasons:

  • It is easily misunderstood and misinterpreted by the receiving party.
  • Tone of voice, facial expression and body language cannot be communicated.
  • You have no control over when or where the other person receives the message.
  • You cannot predict their mood.
  • Electronic communication can be stored, printed and forwarded to other people. It can be used against you.
  • Electronic communication is more permanent than oral communication.

In order to minimise the risks associated with corresponding via text and email Matthew Shepherd, family law and mediation specialist, says you should consider the following before sending or responding to a text or email from an ex partner:

  • Consider whether you need to communicate or respond at all?
  • Consider whether electronic communication is the best means of communication? 
  • Can you pick up the phone or meet to discuss the matter face-to-face in order to minimise the prospect of misinterpretation.
  • Consider why you want to communicate with the other person? If it is for a negative reason – don’t send the message.
  • Avoid writing emails or texts when you are angry, upset or intoxicated.
  • If in doubt, save your text or email, leave it overnight and re-assess it in the morning.
  • Remember that your messages can be saved, reviewed, printed and forwarded.
  • If you would be embarrassed if another person read it – Do not send it!

Whilst challenging, communicating with an ex partner is often necessary. Maintaining clear and open communication with your ex partner can prevent conflict and minimise heartache in the long run. Lawyers are often engaged to communicate on a persons behalf where the lines of communication have broken down. If you can do the communicating yourselves this will save you money.

If your lines of communication have broken down and you are having difficulty discussing the division of your relationship property or care arrangements for your children then give us a call on (04) 473 6850.

Please note that Rainey Collins is not contracted to provide Legal Aid, other than in the Treaty of Waitangi area.  We therefore are unable to take on any Civil or Family Legal Aid work. If you require Legal Aid in those areas, you can search the list of Legal Aid lawyers on the Ministry of Justice website.