Do you feel stuck in an unhappy marriage? Have you thought about leaving? Why are you staying? Is the indecision making you crazy? If you are kind of, sort of, maybe thinking about getting a divorce, here are five things you should consider doing. 1)Take a Deep, Honest Look at Your Marriage. Is this really the end of the road or just a bump? Have you tried everything to make it work? Are you willing to put in serious time and effort to fix the problems? Is your spouse? While there are countless reasons to either stay in or leave a marriage, here are a few simple suggestions that may help you find some clarity. Make a list of everything that’s not working in the relationship. Then, brainstorm as many possible solutions as you can, even if they seem implausible at this moment. Next, make a list of everything that IS working in the marriage. What initially brought the two of you together? Shared interests? Shared values? Common beliefs? Similar life goals? Think of all the ways you were once connected. Are those connections still there? What would your ideal relationship look like? Are those expectations realistic? Achievable? Have they been effectively communicated to your partner? Most arguments between couples are superficial. Get to the root of the problem. What are your underlying needs– To be heard? To be valued? To be understood? To be respected? To be appreciated? What are your partner’s? While I don’t recommend staying in a joyless marriage, it can’t hurt to give it your all if you still feel a glimmer of hope. The end goal is to ultimately find a way to be happily married OR to move on with peace of mind, knowing that you tried, rather than forever wondering what you could have/would have/should have done to save the marriage. 2)Research Divorce Laws in Your State. Divorce laws can vary greatly from state to state. Grounds for divorce, filing processes, waiting periods, asset division and issues pertaining to child support, custody and alimony are determined by where you live. It’s important to research the laws and guidelines for your state so you can gain a general understanding of the overall process, requirements, timelines, terms and possible outcomes. Educating yourself can go a long way in helping you prepare and plan. Knowing what to expect also provides you with an added, reassuring edge as you enter into the process. 3)Schedule a Consultation with a Divorce Lawyer. An initial consultation with a lawyer is an information gathering process for both you and the lawyer. Remember, this is not a therapy session or a time for you to vent on and on about your spouse. Use this time wisely to provide facts and pertinent information about your marriage and marital lifestyle. Come prepared with a list of your most pressing concerns. The ideal goal of the consultation is for you to gain a general and realistic view of potential outcomes for your particular case. What are you entitled to? What may you lose? Where do the kids fit in with all this? The fear of the unknown is what may be keeping you stuck in your marriage. The more knowledge you gain, the more prepared you will be to make your decision. Most of my clients report that their mind is more at ease after consulting with an attorney. 4)Understand Your Financial Picture. One of the first steps in the legal process is the gathering and disclosure of all your financial information. This is often a difficult, time-consuming task. Prepare ahead of time by having a solid understanding of your finances. What is the value of your assets? Can you distinguish between your marital and individual assets? How much is your debt? What is your monthly cost of living? What is the current balance in your checking account, savings account, retirement account, investment portfolio, pension? Do you have access to all these accounts? Gather your most recent tax documents, pay stubs, insurance policies, mortgage statement, and all the other documents pertaining to your joint and individual finances. It may be helpful to consult with a CDFA, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, to help you calculate, budget and prepare for what your financial situation might look like post-divorce. 5)Assemble Your Support Team. Divorce is considered the second most stressful life event. Even if you are the one who wants out, the process can still be extremely emotional and overwhelming. It is so important to have a solid support system in place. Where can you go for help/guidance/support? Who can you count on? Keep in mind that those closest to you are not always able to fully understand the complexities of the divorce process and the range of emotions you are experiencing. A therapist, divorce coach and/or a divorce support group may be invaluable in helping you get through the rough spots. And since divorce affects just about every facet of your life, you may also want to assemble a “team” of other professionals (lawyer and/or mediator, realtor, mortgage broker, divorce lending professional, financial planner, CDFA, etc). Do your research, ask for recommendations, read reviews, and set up initial consultations ahead of time, so everything is already in place if and when you need these resources.
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