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Magnetization dynamics of transition metal complexes manifest in properties and phenomena of fundamental and applied interest (e.g., slow magnetic relaxation in single molecule magnets (SMMs), quantum coherence in quantum bits (qubits), and intersystem crossing (ISC) rates in photophysics). While spin–phonon coupling is recognized as an important determinant of these dynamics, additional fundamental studies are required to unravel the nature of the coupling and thus leverage it in molecular engineering approaches. To this end, we describe here a combined ligand field theory and multireference ab initio model to define spin–phonon coupling terms in S = 2 transition metal complexes and demonstrate how couplings originate from both the static and dynamic properties of ground and excited states. By extending concepts to spin conversion processes, ligand field dynamics manifest in the evolution of the excited state origins of zero-field splitting (ZFS) along specific normal mode potential energy surfaces. Dynamic ZFSs provide a powerful means to independently evaluate contributions from spin-allowed and/or -forbidden excited states to spin–phonon coupling terms. Furthermore, ratios between various intramolecular coupling terms for a given mode drive spin conversion processes in transition metal complexes and can be used to analyze mechanisms of ISC. Variations in geometric structure strongly influence the relative intramolecular linear spin–phonon coupling terms and will thus define the overall spin state dynamics. While of general importance for understanding magnetization dynamics, this study links the phenomenon of spin–phonon coupling across fields of single molecule magnetism, quantum materials/qubits, and transition metal photophysics.