Effective Communication After Separation

Family Lawyer | October 20, 2021 | Written by Crystal Arbour

If you are meeting with a lawyer to discuss your separation, chances are you have experienced communication breakdowns with your former partner. It can be difficult to communicate while working through this often adversarial situation, but your family lawyer can help you to navigate through conflict with effective communication.

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BIFF Responses 

BIFF (developed by lawyer and author Bill Eddy) stands for Brief, Informative, Friendly, and Firm, and it’s not hard to see how these can be great guidelines for how to communicate in high-conflict situations. Even if the other party is driving you up the wall, you are still responsible for how you respond: take time to think about your words and in what direction they push the conversation. Are you helping resolve the issue at hand (arranging parenting time, listing the family home for sale)? Or are you fueling the argument? Your family lawyer will remind you that messages in all caps, re-hashing old arguments, and name-calling are not helpful and can even be harmful to your position.

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It Will Probably End Up In An Affidavit

Your family lawyer has seen it all: page after page of abusive text messages back and forth, the emails you wish you hadn’t sent, and the social media posts you made when you were at your angriest. In fact, most of this aggressive or abusive written communication tends to find its way into court by way of an affidavit. Affidavits are written statements (sometimes accompanied by exhibits like those pages of text messages), which form a large part of the evidence your lawyer will present to a court. If you’re dealing with an angry, aggressive, or otherwise high-conflict ex, your case doesn’t look any stronger when you engage in the same behaviors. As a general rule, never write anything to your ex that you wouldn’t want to show up in an affidavit one day.

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Keep It In Writing 

The flip side of that coin is that effective communication on your part, especially when contrasted with unreasonableness on the other side, does help you make a case. For that reason (as well as avoiding speculation over who said what) it is a very good idea to keep as much correspondence as possible in writing, rather than communicating in person or by phone. You will be able to rely on what was said and when, as long as you can prove it.

The other good reason to communicate in writing is that it affords you the opportunity to organize your thoughts and edit your response. Send a draft to yourself and read it: how does it sound? Are you using BIFF responses? Are you pushing toward a reasonable resolution?


Effective communication can help you achieve a quicker and more satisfactory resolution to your family law case. Even when it’s difficult, don’t take the bait: remember to communicate in writing, and be brief, informative, friendly, and firm.

© Linley Welwood LLP. The contents of this article do not constitute legal advice. Readers should seek legal advice in relation to their own specific circumstances.


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