You see an official-looking email in your inbox. You open it. It is from your ex-partner’s solicitor.
Your heart rate soars as you read each carefully crafted sentence. There are accusations and personal attacks. Each one of them causes you to catch your breath. You swallow hard. Incredulous. Annoyed.
You call your solicitor. It is time to get your own back.
Under your instruction, your solicitor prepares your response and sends it off. The other side responds through their solicitor. And you reply through yours.
One of you applies for a court order and as part of that order more things are said to add weight to the application. The communications continue backwards and forwards.
You are now locked into the escalation factor.
Why the escalation factor is a bad thing
The problem with the escalation factor is that it sucks you into a respond/attack/respond/attack cycle that is guaranteed to succeed at one thing: stripping you of your finances.
Sometimes the escalation factor can take the form of a series of letters via solicitors.
It may also take the form of multiple applications and cross applications to the court – to the point where one or both of end of you end up being barred from making further court applications for a set period of time.
It is very easy for escalation to happen. No-one likes to see untrue or exaggerated things being said or written about them, particularly if the information arrives via a legal representative. And when such statements are included in an application to the court, it can make matters worse.
I understand the escalation factor only too well, having been sucked into it in the past. As soon as you recognise it, the best way to deal with it is to stop it in its tracks.
6 ways to stop the escalation factor
Here are some tried-and-tested ways to stop the escalation factor spiralling out of control:
- Get it off your chest in a draft. Write down a draft reply – put down everything you want to say and include how you are feeling. Express it in any way you like. This is your personal draft, for your eyes only. After you have said all that you want to say, leave your draft to sit for a day or two. You may prefer to capture your draft version as an audio recording rather than writing it. Use whichever method works best for you.
- Take time out. Whatever you do, do not be tempted to reply quickly. It may take a while to get over the initial shock but there is real value in waiting a few days at least before you reply. An instant reply sent in anger is almost always guaranteed to make the situation worse.
- Respond only after careful thought. Go through the letter or email you have received and give real thought to what it says before you reply. Think carefully about what you will say in response and how you will say it.
- Gather your evidence. This step really will help to take your response to the next level. For example, if you have been accused of doing something or being somewhere and you can prove otherwise, get evidence that can be used to back you up. You may need that evidence for a future hearing.
- Test the deadline. If a solicitor’s letter has given you a deadline by which to respond, if you can not meet the deadline, (for example you may need more time to gather information), say so. Suggest an alternative deadline that works better for you.
- Stick to the higher ground. However strong the temptation may be to let rip and say exactly what is on your mind using whatever language comes out, try not do this. Restrict your venting to your personal draft, and once you have given yourself a little distance, work on a ‘clean’ version. Send the clean version only.
I would go as far as to say that when it comes to the escalation factor, procrastination can be helpful.
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