What to do and not to do if you are thinking about a divorce.
While it takes two people to get married, it only takes one to get divorced. If you are thinking about a divorce but haven’t made a decision, then it is likely that your spouse is also considering divorce. You should avoid behaviors that push you or your spouse towards a divorce until you make up your mind. You should get divorced because you have decided it is what you want and not because you forced a divorce by conduct.
WHAT NOT TO DO.
- Don’t discuss divorce with friends and family before you have made a decision.
Telling people that you thinking about a divorce can change the way these people treat you and your spouse. This also means that you should avoid discussing your marriage on social media. Friends and family may become advocates to get you divorced and may damage their relationship with your spouse. A damaged relationship between your family and your spouse may cause your spouse to seek a divorce even if you want to stay married. If you reconcile with your spouse your friends and family may resent being “betrayed” by you.
- Don’t intentionally hurt your spouse.
While you are deciding the future of your marriage, don’t take actions for the purpose of hurting your spouse. Retaliating against your spouse only serves to drive you further apart. If you do get divorced, actions of this nature can be used against you in the divorce. If your actions resulted in financial loss, a Judge could compensate your spouse for these actions. Depending on the nature of these intentionally harmful actions, a judge could consider them in a custody dispute as well.
- Don’t seek legal advice about divorces from friends or family.
Every divorce case is different. Even friends or relatives who have experienced a divorce are not qualified to give you advice. The facts for every divorce are different. Laws are complicated. Divorce laws have changed over time and may change again. If you want advice about a divorce consults a divorce lawyer.
- Don’t discuss divorce issues in front of the children.
Children don’t understand adult relationships or adult problems. They tend to blame themselves for problems that they don’t understand. Children should not be used as weapons or pawns in a divorce.
- Don’t have a trial separation.
Trial separations almost always result in divorce. In order for one person to move out of the marital home, they will need a separate residence. Landlords require people to sign a one year lease. This means that if you want to reconcile after a month it won’t happen because a contract has been signed that requires rent payments for a full year. Almost all trial separations turn into one year separations. This is a long period. During this period each spouse is wondering what the other is doing when they don’t have the children. Such thoughts result in fears that the other spouse is having affairs. Even worse, some people will actually have affairs. This is especially true if the apartment that is rented is in a large apartment complex with many single and separated people.
- Don’t change your finances.
Don’t transfer money to hide it from your spouse. Don’t run up credit card balances. Be fiscally responsible regardless of what your spouse may have done. Wrongful financial actions will always be brought to the attention of a judge. Giving assets to relatives for safe keeping is likely to result in your spouse suing the relatives for “fraudulent transfers.” A lawsuit for fraudulent transfers will seek to have the transfer reversed. It is better to get permission from your spouse or a judge before you transfer such assets. If you have engaged in risky investments such as penny stocks or crypto currency then you should stop such investments. If you get divorced a judge will give half the profits to your spouse but charge you will all of the losses from the investments.
- Don’t threaten divorce to change your spouse.
When there are problems in your marriage it is only natural to try to change your spouse. However, the nuclear bomb of relationships is threatening divorce. Making the threat drives you closer to divorce. In some instances, once the threat is made, the other spouse merely accepts the offer to get divorced and the next thing that happens you separate and a divorce is filed.
- Don’t spy on your spouse.
Don’t try to find out what your spouse is doing with their digital presence or where they drive their car. Once your spouse discovers the spying it will destroy all trust between the two of you and cause immense harm to your relationship. Nothing good comes from spying. Any information you learn is likely to cause you to get divorced. I can’t think of anything you can learn from spying that will improve your marriage. Furthermore, certain types of spying on your spouse are criminal acts. Spying on someone’s computer or cellphone or secretly recording information are all criminal acts.
What to do.
- Develop a plan for deciding if you want to stay married.
Don’t think that one day you will suddenly know if you really want a divorce. You need to take actions that will help you make your decision. There is no one method on how to make up your mind. The following are suggestions that may work for you.
A. Marital counseling or therapy.
In Massachusetts insurance policies will pay for mental health therapy which includes marital counseling. Therapy provides a neutral save environment to discuss your marriage and the problems the two of you are having. The purpose of therapy is to try to improve your relationship with your spouse. If your relationship doesn’t improve then therapy can help people decide that they want a divorce.
B. Individual therapy
Many people thinking about divorce experience extreme stress and anxiety. Individual therapy can help you deal with such emotional distress. Many people find discussing the issues with a professional therapist can help people decide what they truly want.
C. Romantic getaways
Spouses need to work on keeping the romance in the relationship. The stress of jobs and child rearing tend to reduce intimacy in the relationship. Many people inform me that they had not gone away with their spouse for a romantic trip in years. For such people, taking a long weekend without children can be a start to rebuilding the romance. The couple will need to discuss building intimacy and continuing to take actions for that purpose.
D. Religious advisors
Religion is very important to some people and marriage and divorce can be religious issues. For these people, perhaps consulting with their religious advisor will help them decide if divorce is right for you.
- Take your discussions with your spouse out of the house
If you trying to decide about divorce you need to have discussions about your relationship, your marriage, and your future with your spouse. If you have these discussions in the house the children will hear portions of the discussions. Children always hear things in the house. You may think they are sleeping or watching tv but somehow, they will hear things. It is better to take the discussions to a restaurant or a coffee shop where the children won’t interrupt. In addition, people frequently behave differently in public. In the event your spouse starts yelling or threatening you, someone in the restaurant will call the police. Many couples never go to restaurants without the children. A “date” to discuss the relationship may encourage improvements in the way the two of you treat each other.
- Seek advice from professionals
While you should not ask advice from friends and relatives you should ask therapists and lawyers for advice. Therapists can give you advice about your relationship and lawyers can give advice about divorce. Unlike family members, professionals will be objective and unbiased.
- Save financial records.
In a Massachusetts divorce each party must provide to the other 3 years of financial records (bank statements, investment statements, retirement accounts, and records of other assets.) There is no harm in saving these records. In the event you get divorced it will be easier if you have these records available. It is also a good idea to track your expenses. If money is an issue in your marriage tracking your expenses may help you change your spending habits. If you get divorced you will have to provide a financial statement which lists all of your expenses.
- Make a list of your electronic accounts.
In the event you file for divorce you will want to change your passwords on all your digital accounts. This includes social media, bank accounts, investment accounts, your computers, and your cellphone. If you separate you will want to make it clear to your spouse that your finances and lives will be separate. Not changing all passwords can result in spouses sharing information and spying on each other. If you move your residence you will need to notify all of these accounts of your change in address.
- Marriage certificate
If you don’t have a certified copy of your marriage certificate you should get one. If you decide to file for divorce you will need the marriage certificate to file. You can obtain a copy from the city or town where you were married or from the state agency of vital statistics,
Getting divorced is a major decision that should not be made lightly. If you need a divorce you should get one. However, you should get the divorce as a result of a thoughtful decision and not a snap judgment.