If your marriage is deteriorating, or if you have an irreconcilable problem with your spouse, you may consider the possibility of divorce. Divorces can be messy, expensive, and time consuming, so it’s important to prepare for this potential eventuality as early as possible.
What are the most important steps to take if you’re thinking about divorce?
Important Steps to Take
Even if divorce is only a remote possibility in your mind, there are some important steps to take:
1. Get immediate help if you’re a victim of abuse. First, if you’re a victim of abuse, it’s important to get help safely and immediately. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can provide you with both emotional support and connection to local resources that can help you immediately (and safely) escape your situation. Just make sure you review these resources and plan your next steps discreetly.
2. Start documenting everything. If possible, begin documenting all your interactions with your spouse, especially if you want to showcase the verbal abuse you’ve been putting up with or illustrate the condition of the marriage. That could mean using cameras and audio recorders to document your conversations, saving old emails and text messages, or digging up even older forms of evidence. The more evidence you have on your side, the better.
3. Contact an attorney. Contact a family law firm as early as possible. Even if you don’t go through with a divorce, it’s valuable to talk to an attorney who knows what they’re talking about. They’ll be able to help you better understand what a divorce is, and what the process of getting one is like. And if you do decide to go through with divorce proceedings, they’ll be able to guide you through the entire process.
4. Educate yourself about divorce. Before getting any further, take the time to educate yourself about divorce. Divorces and marriage dissolutions work differently in different states, and there are different repercussions, depending on a number of variables. You’re not going to become a legal expert overnight, but even a few hours of reading online articles can help you become a more educated consumer.
5. Start creating separate accounts. If most of your accounts, including bank accounts and email accounts, are joint, consider starting to create separate accounts for your individual self. Do this discreetly, so as not to raise concerns.
6. Save cash. While you’re at it, set some cash aside. Have a secure location to keep your cash and be ready to leave with it if necessary. You may not ever need to access this separate cache of capital, but if you do, you’ll be grateful for it.
7. Avoid excessive disclosure. If you’re having marital problems, you may be tempted to vent about them on social media or with your left ones. While this can be emotionally valuable, it may also rouse suspicions in your spouse or potentially weaken your case in the future. For the most part, it’s better to remain quiet and avoid any excessive disclosures.
8. Analyze your reasons for leaving (after some time has passed). Divorce isn’t always the answer. If you were considering divorce after a significant negative event, like finding out your spouse cheated on you or discovering a bad gambling habit, give it some time before you make any final decisions. Allow yourself to come to terms with your emotions and unbiasedly analyze your reasons for leaving. Is there any path forward to healing the marriage or his divorce the best possible solution?
9. Have a frank conversation with your spouse. Once you’ve done some personal thinking, and you’re confident that you’re in a safe situation, have a frank conversation with your spouse. Let them know that you’re considering divorce if the marriage isn’t fixed. Explain your expectations, your boundaries, and what would be necessary to make the marriage work. From there, you can forge an agreement and hold each other accountable.
10. Consider a temporary separation. If you’re not sure whether divorce is the best solution, but you need some space to figure things out, consider a temporary separation. You can even create a formal temporary separation agreement. Once you have some time and space to yourself, you may be able to see things more clearly – possibly reinforcing your decision to go through with the divorce or forcing you to reconsider.
There are many potential ways forward from here. You could work with an attorney to draw divorce paperwork. You could prolong your temporary separation. Or you could work with your spouse to try and patch things up. Whatever your way forward is, try to remain patient and focused on your end goal: personal happiness and fulfillment.