When a client seems hesitant or vague during a initial divorce intake conference, I often ask them whether they still love their spouse. In many cases, the answer is yes. It is not the lack of love that preceded their entry into the divorce arena but the lack of being able to attain and maintain common goals with effective communication skills. Parenting skills that are unequal and parenting time that is disproportionate may stress the marriage. Lack of quality time with your spouse may leave you lonely. There are many different scenarios and reasons but let’s keep this simple.
Three questions to ask yourself:
- Have I exhausted every avenue to save my marriage and is spousal counselling an option? Both spouses need to want to save the marriage for counselling to work. Sometimes, the differences are far too ingrained to be resolved. But, then again, a qualified marriage counselor may have solutions that can help the spouses reconcile their differences in a productive way. If the couple decides separation is imminent, a family counselor in place can assist the couple though the divorce process and help them resolve issues collaboratively. Amicable divorces are less stressful, less painful and less expensive. Equitable and Compassionate uncoupling, if possible, has both long and short term advantages.
- Am I in an abusive relationship? If your spouse has a substance abuse problem or is physically or psychologically abusive, skip to the next question. Get educated. You cannot save someone who is not willing to save themselves, no matter how much you love them or how much you put up with. What you can do is make a decision to seek a better life.
- What do I know about divorce? Often a spouse has no idea what the divorce process requires and what to expect when the marriage is over. Where will I live? Can I get support? When will I have the children? Can I stay in our home? Can I move to another state? You will have many questions. Property accrued during the marriage, with a few exceptions, will be divided. If you have children, the questions can seem as endless as they are frightening. In marriages where the spouses have equal earnings, the results may be less stressful financially than when one spouse is a homemaker and there is only one paycheck to divide into two future homes. It is often wise, before you say anything to your spouse, to research divorce in your state. The internet is an unlimited resource in this respect. Or, you can set up a conference with an experienced lawyer who concentrates in family law. Family law attorneys have more knowledge on the subject than a general practitioner or someone who does a divorce once in a while. Please choose your counselor carefully.
I cannot stress how valuable professional counselling, both legal and psychological, is when having to make this life altering decision. We are accustomed to helping our clients navigate themselves from what is probably the lowest point in their lives. We’ve learned how to help our client’s cope with the pain of transition and the uncertainty of a future life. Help is here when you need it.