You’ve decided to get a divorce. Notice we said “you've” not “you both.” To be clear, ONLY you have decided to divorce. When this happens, the decision-making spouse has a few options for how to proceed.
In this blog, we want to show this spouse that their options are not as limited as they believe. Many people are so scared and unsure about their divorce options that they think their ONLY option is to proceed in secret and call a divorce attorney, or talk to anyone but their spouse. They jump right to Step #2 and start looking for “a bulldog” or a “tough, take no prisoners” divorce attorney.
Let’s discuss why this choice may be self-sabotaging. The the two of you decided to make a lifelong commitment to each other. If you take your concerns to a divorce attorney before you talk to your spouse, they may see this as being so disrespectful that there is no way you can have an amicable divorce. Remember, a peaceful divorce is especially important when that person will be your co-parent.
They’re not emotionally prepared to divorce. They may be frustrated, angry, or disappointed with their spouse but they’re not clear headed enough about the process to proceed and unsure their post divorce future, so they “lawyer up” first.
Even if their intention was not to beat their spouse to doing the same, they have effectively guaranteed that their divorce proceedings will be fraught with conflict, expensive and unnecessarily stressful.
To be sure, if your partner is abusive and controlling, you may need to contact someone outside of your marriage BEFORE have the difficult divorce conversation. However, we’ve met many spouses who called a divorce attorney first and later wish they’d chosen Step #1.
Even if your intention is just to gather information, or you’re following the advice of a friend who has been through a divorce, your spouse will feel betrayed and it is hard to come to an agreement with someone when you’ve fired a warning shot.
A divorce attorney will be looking out for your interests and yours only. Meanwhile, your spouse will have to hire their own divorce lawyer. Now you have two high priced advisors looking to score a win. When one spouse wins, the other inevitably loses. Do you see where we are headed with this?
If you have the tough conversation first, you have an opportunity for divorce mediation. The discomfort you feel having to initiate the discussion will pale in comparison to the conflict you usher in by calling a divorce attorney.
First off, bringing up “divorce” during a fight is not a good idea. Emotions are heightened and make us unpredictable. If you say something in that moment, there’s no easy way to press pause and return to the subject when you’re more clear headed.
Find a time of day where you are not stressed or sleepy to have the divorce talk. In terms of the ideal time, treat it the same as you would if you had to deliver bad news.
Make sure that you are in private and out of earshot of your children. Try not to use phrases like, “I don’t know, I am not sure but…” Be 100% sure that divorce is the next step.
A Huff Post article offers wise advice about finding the right words: It’s much more powerful to state your feelings about the relationship clearly, honestly and as kindly as possible, rather than calling your spouse on all the things you think they did wrong in the marriage.”
Do not expect to have a “one and done” conversation. Be prepared to table some topics to talk through at a later date. This is not the time to compartmentalize your life and shut your spouse out. To arrive in at a place where you can agree on property division and child or spousal support, don’t think that you can only discuss divorce inside a mediation room or an attorney’s office.
If you choose Step #2 and talk with your spouse about divorce, you’ll know if they want to move forward in an amicable way. Consider how divorce mediation meets you where you are. Divorce does not have to be devastating if the two of you can agree that a contentious divorce is unnecessary.
The divorce professionals at the Divorce Resource Centre of Colorado have helped thousands of couples change the way society divorces. Call to set up a complimentary phone consultation with one of us and your spouse. In person or virtually, we help soon to be ex spouses find common ground without conflict.