You’re not happy in your marriage and haven’t been for quite some time. You’re ready to tell your spouse how you feel and wonder how to do it. How you begin this conversation can have an impact on whether your separation or divorce will be friendly and civil or ugly and contested. There are a number of ways to approach this difficult conversation and to some degree which way works best for you depends on your situation.
But first what not to do: hand your spouse an attorney’s business card and say have your lawyer contact my lawyer. Do not say, "You need to move out because I’m filing for divorce." Do not announce in front of the children that daddy and mommy are getting a divorce. And do not have your spouse served with divorce papers as the first indication to your spouse that you're asking for a divorce. These are examples of only a few of the do nots, the essence of which is to not embarrass your spouse or make your spouse angry before the process even begins. As the saying goes, first impressions are important and the way you begin can have a tremendous effect on what is a difficult and emotional process for many people.
Mental health professionals will tell you for some people getting a divorce is like experiencing a death of a spouse. If you’ve ever known someone who has lost a spouse, particularly if it was sudden or unexpected, the surviving spouse needs time to heal. That doesn’t mean they get to a point where they forget their spouse, but many people need time to be able to move forward with their lives. A person who is not aware that their spouse is ready to be divorced also needs time to adjust to be able to move forward with his or her life. If the notion of being divorced is sprung on them it can have the same effect as a sudden death.
So that brings us to how can you tell your spouse. What can you do? First, before saying anything to your spouse review the Collaborative Family Law webpage. See that the approach is to resolve your issues prior to filing anything in court. Understand that the benefit is to have a process whereby you and your spouse can deal with all of the issues in a controlled environment with all participants working to reach a resolution that works for both parties. In that way when issues arise following your divorce you’ll hopefully be able to resolve them in a problem-solving manner rather than as adversaries. Once you are comfortable in understanding the process, approach your spouse and tell him or her that you feel your marriage is no longer working. Let your spouse know that there is a process you’re aware of that will allow you to resolve all of your issues before anything is filed in court and suggest that he or she review the webpage and speak with a professional listed in the member directory. Should you have further questions before approaching your spouse don’t hesitate to contact someone on the member directory for additional information.
Leonard is an attorney and former member of CFLA.