Building Trust During Divorce: A Comprehensive Guide

By Dr. James E. Walton, Ph.D.

I had the pleasure of speaking at the CPCal Celebration in April this year titled ‘Navigating the Turbulent Waters of Divorce.’     Building trust at the CPCAL conference was the topic of my discussion when I participated in a panel on stage. I emphasized the importance of transparency, consistency, follow-through, and validation as crucial elements in establishing trust. I compared these four concepts to the legs of a chair, explaining that when even one is missing, trust becomes unstable, and when two are missing, it collapses entirely.

Developing trust during a divorce is vital for maintaining healthy interactions and ensuring a smoother process. Let us delve into how transparency, consistent behavior, follow-through, and validation contribute to the development of trust:


Openness involves clear and truthful communication. It is important to practice transparency during a divorce to establish trust between you and your former spouse:

  • Financial Disclosure. Share all relevant financial information openly, including assets, debts, and income. Transparency is essential for a fair division of property.
  • Child-Centric Approach. Be transparent about parenting arrangements, visitation schedules, and child support. Avoid hidden agendas or secretive plans.
  • Emotional Honesty. Express your feelings openly and acknowledge your emotions. Encourage your ex-spouse to do the same. Transparent communication fosters mutual understanding.


Consistent behavior is a vital component of trust-building. Here are some ways to maintain consistency:

  • Adherence to Agreements. Uphold agreements made during mediation or legal procedures. Consistency demonstrates reliability, which in turn, fosters trust.
  • Established Communication Patterns. Maintain regular and predictable communication. By following a consistent communication schedule, you can reduce uncertainties.
  • Avoiding Surprises. Unexpected changes can harm trust. If modifications are needed, communicate them in advance to prevent surprises.


Demonstrating reliability and integrity through fulfilling commitments is crucial.

  • Compliance with Legal Obligations. Meet all legal requirements promptly. Attend court proceedings, submit necessary paperwork, and meet deadlines efficiently.
  • Keeping Promises. Ensure you fulfill any promises or commitments you make. Consistent follow-through displays your dedication and strengthens trust.
  • Alignment of Words and Deeds. Make sure your actions are in line with your words. Consistently delivering on your promises reinforces trust.

Validation and Empathy

Validation and empathy play a crucial role in building trust and acknowledging emotions.

One effective way to validate is through active listening, where you genuinely listen and acknowledge your ex-spouse’s feelings. This demonstrates empathy and respect. Additionally, using empathetic responses such as saying, “I understand how you feel” or “That must be difficult,” helps bridge gaps and shows that you are trying to understand their perspective. It is important to validate without passing judgment, as everyone experiences divorce in their own unique way.

Incorporating these values of openness, consistency, and reliability can help establish and cultivate trust throughout the divorce process, facilitating smoother interactions and a healthier outcome for you and the entire family.

Dr. James E. Walton, Ph.D.  [FDS link]
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT32040)
Individual/Couples Counseling
Relationship Repair Counseling
Family Divorce Coaching and Mediation