You Must Ask Before Filing for Divorce
Divorces are never easy, and can get messy. You should make every effort to avoid this unfortunate event, which occurs for 40 to 50 percent of U.S. marriages.1 But if you’re in an unhealthy relationship, it may be time for a change.
Whatever reasons you have for filing for divorce, it is a decision that should be made independent of emotion. Divorce decisions should only be made after you weighed all your options and are prepared to fight for your assets and custody of your children.
Every situation is different, but we’ve broken down the four essential questions you must ask yourself before proceeding with a divorce filing. As with any major life decision, a little thought and preparation can make a tremendous difference down the road.
Is divorce your best resolution? If the current state of your marriage is non-violent but making you unhappy, you should seek professional help to determine whether you are going through a rough patch or whether ending your marriage is the only way to move forward. If personal issues are affecting your marriage, you may end up finding the same issues in future relationships if you do not address the root of your unhappiness. Consider these steps to repair your relationship before seeking a divorce.
- Identify main conflict points: There is no perfect marriage. However, as psychologists suggest, there are things you can do to improve your relationship. A recent study concluded stress can cause even the strongest marriages to crumble.2 If stress is a conflict point in your marriage, counseling can be a valuable tool to help. Whether it’s stress or financial concerns, by identifying the main conflict points in your marriage you may be able to tackle these issues and resolve your marital problems before resorting to divorce.
- Seek outside guidance: If you struggle to communicate and remove emotion from your marital conflicts, you may benefit from bringing in a third party to help. Whether you choose a therapist, counselor, Pastor, Rabbi, Imam, or anyone else, a respected outside voice to facilitate communication with your spouse can make a tremendous difference, and may help repair your relationship.
- Try to improve communication: Communication is essential to any strong relationship, but not just any small talk will suffice. Meaningful conversations, where couples continue to get to know one another, is the kind of communication that will make a relationship last. Many couples complain that after a few years the conversation is centered around to work, chores, and the children, as opposed to when they first got together and it involved more varied and interesting topics. Psychologists suggest that the solution to resorting to the mundane in relationships can be remedied with novelty,2variety, and surprise. You may find that improving your communication may increase your happiness.
- Is this a phase, or an unsolvable difference? Whether you went to counseling together or sought counseling on your own, you will want to determine whether your marriage is salvageable or if your conflicts can only be fixed through a divorce. If after trying to work out your marital problems there is no solution but divorce, you must prepare yourself for the next steps and be as informed as possible. Surround yourself with a network of support and seek legal advice before any major decision. Next, you will want to determine whether to stay in or move out of your marital home.
If you’ve decided you want a divorce, your decision to leave or stay in your home can have serious implications. The safety of you and your children is most important, but if you’re not in any immediate danger, you should speak with an attorney before leaving your home, as it could affect your custody hearing. However, if you are in an abusive relationship you must take the necessary steps to remove yourself (and your children) from danger. The American Bar Association reports that Divorces often bring on an increase in such violence – 50 percent of serious assaults occur at or after the point of separation.3
- Are you in a victim of domestic violence?: Domestic abuse is different in every relationship but is never acceptable, nor something anyone should have to endure. There are some warnings and red flags which the National Domestic Violence Hotline identifies to help you determine whether or not you are in an abusive relationship.4 If you are a victim of domestic abuse, the law is on your side, and there are many resources to help you.
- Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline: The National Hotline can help you find a path to safety. The number for the hotline is 1-800-799-7233.5
- File a restraining order: You may want to consider a restraining order or asking a judge to order the abusive spouse to move out. However, keep in mind that a restraining order may be limited in scope. If you chose to leave and take your children you should consult a lawyer to obtain a court order for custody. Otherwise, kidnapping accusations may arise.
- Consult an attorney to discuss the domestic abuse: The attorney you consult should address the following questions to determine your best course of action.6 Take the time to provide honest and detailed responses.
- Are you ever frightened of your spouse?
- Do you feel safe at home?
- Does your spouse throw objects?
- Are you allowed to spend time with family members and friends?
- Do you have access to spending money?