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"Business relationship" with ex may keep things running smoothly

Divorce can be difficult, especially when two former partners share child custody. Marriage experts say even in the most amicable divorce situations, ex-spouses can evoke strong negative emotions, which make it difficult to agree on children's issues.

Many advisors say post-divorce discussions about changing child custody or visitation arrangements can be filled with ex-marital discord, but counselors say it doesn't have to be that way if the parties involved maintain a business relationship.

Keeping the children's needs foremost is the key most advisors suggest. Former spouses may not agree about schedules, schooling or support, but treating an ex the same as a difficult business client can produce a satisfying compromise.

Counselors recommend respectfully setting an appointment and meeting a former spouse face-to-face on neutral turf. Planning in advance what to say and how to handle negative responses can save you from unpleasant surprises.

Another tip is to stick to an agenda. Meeting in a public place, without the children, relieves each spouse of the discomfort of visiting a former partner's home. Meeting in a former marital residence can dredge up old feelings, habits and behaviors that counselors say are best avoided. Restaurants, malls or parks are public venues that can make two former spouses feel more at ease.

Once a discussion is underway, the focus should remain on business. Keeping a conversation on-topic at all times and remaining flexible can bring the best results.

Ex-spousal discomfort works both ways. Working together to satisfy the needs of mutual children is not easy. Sometimes conversations between exes can escalate. Family advisors suggest knowing the cut-off point before words get out of hand.

Being magnanimous can diffuse a hostile conversation. Admit the need to walk away temporarily, either for a short time or until another telephone or in-person appointment can be scheduled to resolve the issue.

Source: The Huffington Post, "For Divorce and Joint Custody Issues, Think Business," Julie A. Ross M.A. and Judy Corcoran, Aug. 16, 2011.

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