Divorce is no laughing matter. It can and does alter the lives of both spouses, their children, and even the lives of extended family members. There are heavy emotional, physical, and financial repercussions associated with getting a divorce. This is true even if the divorce is mutually agreed upon and the parties settle their differences. As such, the billion dollar question should be: why am I seeking a divorce? Below are five things you should consider before filing for divorce.
1) Can You Still Work Things out with your Spouse?
You should definitely ask this question if you still have feelings for your spouse. Ask yourself whether you are willing and able to work with your spouse to save your marriage. Seeing a family therapist or counselor (especially with your spouse) is always a good idea before fiing for divorce. That is why I require that prospective clients seeking to end their marriage, attend at least one therapy session before they can retain me (Unless there is domestic violence or sexual assault occuring in the household). I want to make sure that the prospective client understands the emotional consequences of going through a divorce.
2) Identify Your Reasons For Wanting a Divorce
A useful exercise will be to jot down the issues that have caused the marriage to unravel such as finances, conflicts over how to raise the children, religious differences, infidelity, shared values (or the lackthereof), and other important considerations. Doing this exercise ensures that your decision to file for divorce stems from identifying concrete problems in your relationship as opposed to merely being a strong but vague emotion that you feel.
3) Do You Actually Want A Divorce or is it Merely a Threat to Get Your Spouse to Shape up?
Are you angry at your spouse and threatening divorce out of frustration over the problems in the marriage? Or do you feel that threatening divorce will finally get your spouse's attention so that they will take you seriously? Threatening divorce will not get you where you want to be. If you truly want to file for divorce, you need to take an informed step in the right direction instead of making empty threats.
4) Will You Be Able to Maturely Handle the Legal, Financial, Physical, and Emotional Consequences of a Divorce?
Divorce is physically, emotionally, and financially draining. If your spouse is unwilling to compromise, divorce litigation over division property, child custody, child and spousal support can be expensive and time-consuming. While I would advise anyone who is extremely unhappy in their marriage to obtain a divorce, you need to adequatly prepare yourself emotionally and financially before you file for one. Timing is everything.
5) Have You Spoken with Your Spouse and Children about Divorce in a Loving and Thoughtful Way?
Too many couples drop the "D" word when they are in the middle of a heated argument. That is exactly the wrong time to discuss the possibility of a divorce. The "D" word should only be brought up with your spouse and/or children after some serious soul searching. Any discussions about divorce with your spouse and/or children should be done thoughtfully and graciously. Using the list of reasons that I mentioned in Paragraph #2 will greatly facilitate this difficult discussion.
Sometimes, two people simply are not meant to be together. In other words, the marriage is causing one or both parties to be unhappy. If you ultimately decide to divorce, it is imperative that you hire a competent attorney who can advise you of your options and rights.
Next week, I will discuss the three main types of divorce that exist in California. Wait..there's more than 1 kind? Yes, stay tuned for next week's blog post!
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