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Can you keep a combative divorce from impacting your kids?

No one -- particularly couples with kids -- wants a messy, combative divorce, but sometimes it happens. Maybe your soon-to-be-ex isn't handling the break-up well and always seems to be picking fights. Maybe the two of you are nowhere close to agreeing on things like property division, support, child custody and other issues, and that impacts your interactions.

Meanwhile, the two of you have to maintain some contact because you're co-parenting. So how do you keep the tensions between you from impacting your children?

It may be a good idea to establish some rules for communication. Some co-parents do better by avoiding face-to-face communication and phone calls and stick to texts and emails. These can be less triggering. You also avoid having your kids see or hear you fighting. Even if you're still working on your parenting plan, your attorneys can help you draft a communications agreement if necessary.

If it's difficult to get through a hand-off of the kids without a fight, you may want to ask a friend or family member to sub for you. Of course, it's important to choose someone who won't make things worse -- like one of your parents, your best friend or your new significant other. If that's not possible, you can exchange the kids at a public place like a local park. Some supervised visitation centers allow parents to exchange their children there to facilitate a safe, conflict-free hand-off.

If you can't avoid some contact with your spouse in front of the kids (and you probably can't), have some responses ready to go. If you deliver your child and your co-parent has something to say about what they're wearing or perhaps something that happened in court the previous day, don't take the bait. Simply say, "Have fun together" and leave. Don't get dragged into an argument in front of your child.

If an agreement detailing communication and hand-off rules would help minimize the amount of conflict that your kids are exposed to, talk to your attorney about drawing one up that you and your spouse can agree on.

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