How to Tell Your Spouse That You Want a Divorce
A friend of mine sent me an article last week which said that more divorces are filed in January than any other month. My experience of practicing family law for well over 30 years makes me think this is probably true. The article got me thinking about how important the conversation is when you tell your spouse that you definitely want a divorce. The following tips are a good place to start for most folks who have decided to tell their spouse that they want a divorce.
Like any other important event, preparation can make a huge difference on the outcome. If you’ve never been through divorce, you probably have not thought of all of the issues you will have to address. Don’t be guided by what you have heard from friends about their divorce, or by what you have seen on TV or on the internet. Accept that you will make better decisions if you get counsel from an experienced divorce attorney. Meet with a lawyer before you have the conversation with your spouse. Know what needs to be resolved in order to get through the divorce process.
When you actually begin the conversation with your spouse, stay focused on the message. You want a divorce, not just another argument. You do not need to tell your spouse all of the things that he or she has done wrong that led to this point. If you go down that road, the conversation becomes all about why the marriage is unworkable (something you already know), instead of about how to end it. Likewise, do not sit and listen to your spouse’s version of how you are actually to blame. If they start the blame-game, simply refuse to engage. There is no point in defending yourself against their accusations.
Usually, you do not want to try to negotiate the details of the break up during the initial conversation. That can come later. Your lawyer can help you put together a spreadsheet with all of the assets and debts listed, valued at the designated as marital are separate property. You may want to have it with you during the initial conversation, and share it with your spouse. Invite them to add anything you may have inadvertently left off. It let’s them know that you are serious, and that you have thought about what you are doing. Having a written list in front of you will help keep both of you mindful of the all of the items that need to be negotiated and will help you avoid having to constantly go back and renegotiate issues that one or both of you fall had already been resolved.
Don’t declare war, and don’t accept your spouse’s declaration of war. It is not unusual for one side to say, “Fine! You can have your divorce, but I’m taking everything you own, and you will never see the kids again!” Again, don’t engage. Threats like this are baseless. Tell your spouse that you’ve seen a lawyer and that they will prepare some paperwork which will help guide you in negotiating a settlement. If they want to know who your lawyer is, tell them.
Taking the first step is never easy. But if you don’t move, you will never get out or where you are.