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Setting Boundaries During Your Divorce


Divorce is undeniably one of life's most challenging events, with its capacity to trigger a whirlwind of emotions and uncertainties. It can disrupt your life in ways you never imagined, but one strategy that can help you navigate this tumultuous period more smoothly is the establishment of boundaries. In this blog, we will discuss the types of boundaries you may consider setting and the legal options you have concerning certain boundaries. 

Why Is Having Boundaries Important?

Boundaries refer to the physical, emotional, and psychological barriers we set up to safeguard ourselves from being exploited, mistreated, or infringed upon by others. They allow us to separate who we are, what we think, and how we feel from the thoughts and feelings of others. In essence, they are the guidelines we set for ourselves and others about the types of behavior we will tolerate.

During divorce, boundaries become particularly crucial. They safeguard our emotional and mental health, helping us to maintain our self-esteem and avoid unnecessary stress and conflict. They also provide a framework for the negotiation process, ensuring that discussions remain respectful and productive, even when emotions are running high.

In all these cases, boundaries serve as a tool for facilitating the healing and recovery process. They provide a sense of control in a situation that often feels uncontrollable, and they help to prevent further emotional harm. By defining what is acceptable and what is not, you can create a safe space for yourself where healing can occur.

It's important to remember that setting boundaries is not about controlling the other person's behavior—it's about defining your own needs and ensuring they are met. It might be challenging at first, but with time and practice, it can become a powerful tool for navigating your divorce and moving toward a healthier future.

What Are Examples of Boundaries During Divorce?

Here are the common types of boundaries that may need to be set during your divorce:

  • Physical boundaries refer to the physical space between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse. It's important to establish these boundaries to avoid any unnecessary conflicts or discomfort. This might mean moving out of the shared home, establishing separate living spaces, or agreeing on when and where you will see each other, especially if children are involved.
  • Emotional boundaries are crucial for protecting your mental health during a divorce. They involve managing your emotions and ensuring they don't consume you. This could mean limiting conversations about the divorce to specific times or settings or deciding not to engage in discussions that lead to emotional distress. Therapy or counseling can also be beneficial in helping you establish and maintain these boundaries.
  • Financial matters often become contentious during divorces. Therefore, it's essential to set clear financial boundaries. This involves separating joint bank accounts, dividing assets and debts, and deciding on alimony or child support. You may need to engage a financial advisor or attorney to ensure these boundaries are fair and legally sound.
  • Setting communication boundaries during a divorce can prevent misunderstandings and reduce stress. This may involve deciding on the mode of communication (such as email, text, or calls), the frequency, and the topics that can be discussed. It's crucial that communication remains respectful and focused on resolving the issues at hand.
  • Social boundaries pertain to your interactions with friends, family, and mutual acquaintances. You may need to inform these individuals about the divorce and ask them to respect your privacy. It's also important to decide how you'll handle social events or gatherings where both of you might be present.

Boundaries & Legalities

There are some boundaries that you may want to implement that may require getting the court involved. One common scenario where boundaries play a crucial role is in custody arrangements. For example, setting clear boundaries about when and how the other parent can interact with the children can prevent misunderstandings and conflicts. This might include rules about pick-up and drop-off times, communication methods, or how decisions about the children's welfare are made.

During your divorce, you can have temporary custody arrangements that the court enforces. This arrangement can outline the boundaries you want concerning pick-ups, communication, and more.

During property distribution, emotions can run high. You may wish to set boundaries about how discussions will take place (e.g., only during scheduled meetings, not through impromptu phone calls) and who else can be involved (e.g., lawyers, mediators).

When it comes to setting physical boundaries, you may also wish to have your spouse leave the home. If they are unwilling to leave, you may petition the court for exclusive possession of the marital home while the divorce is pending.

The Benefits of Setting Boundaries During Divorce

Setting social boundaries during divorce can have numerous benefits. It can help reduce stress and anxiety by eliminating unnecessary conflicts and negative interactions. It can also foster self-esteem by allowing you to take control of your personal life and make decisions that prioritize your well-being.

How to Discuss Boundaries with Your Soon-to-Be-Ex-Spouse

Initiating a dialogue about boundaries can seem daunting, but it's a necessary step toward a healthier transition. Here are some tips to help you start the conversation:

  • Choose the right time and place. Find a neutral location where you both feel safe and comfortable. Avoid times when either of you is tired, stressed, or distracted.
  • Prepare ahead. Think through what you want to say beforehand. You could even write down your thoughts to ensure you cover everything.
  • Use "I" statements. Instead of saying, "You need to...," say, "I feel..." or "I need...". This helps to avoid blame and keeps the focus on your feelings and needs.
  • Be clear and specific. Ambiguity can lead to misunderstandings. Clearly define your boundaries and give specific examples if possible.
  • Listen actively. This is a two-way conversation. Be open to their thoughts and feelings as well.

Once you've established your boundaries, it's crucial to enforce them consistently. Here's how:

  • Be firm but respectful. Make it clear that your boundaries are non-negotiable, but do so in a way that respects the other person's feelings.
  • Stay calm. Emotions can flare up during these discussions. If this happens, take a break and return to the conversation when you're both calmer.
  • Talk with your attorney. When it comes to boundaries related to legal issues like custody arrangements or orders to leave the family home, your attorney can help you take legal action to enforce the court orders. For instance, if a parent fails to pay court-ordered temporary alimony, your attorney can file a petition with the court to intervene.

Get Counsel

The attorneys at William Kirby Law, Family Law Attorneys strive to make the divorce process as smooth as possible, focusing on minimizing stress and disruption while working towards a fair outcome. We bring a balanced approach to every case, combining compassion with strong legal acumen.

If you are filing for divorce, our firm can help with the initial filing or a petition for modification. We also offer clients divorce mediation services and serve clients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

To discuss your case with our team, call (215) 515-9901 and schedule an initial consultation.