It’s time. You’ve tried everything, counselors, retreats, every trick, tool, or suggestion you can get your hands on. But nothing works. Nothing can possibly fix your marriage. You need to move on, for you, for your kids, your friends, your peace of mind, and probably even your spouse.
But one big question looms: How do I ask for divorce?
This is a hard conversation, and not one anybody wants to have. Admittedly, you probably want the result, which should leave you in a better place. But by the time you come to this point, it’s more of a necessity than a desire. Whatever the situation, most people don’t look forward to this particular talk.
Still, it’s an important conversation to have. It’s the first step towards a new life, hopefully, an improved one. This is an emotional moment, and not one to take lightly or approach with reckless abandon. Divorce changes your entire life; where you live, how often you see your kids, your financial outlook, and more.
How you ask for divorce can set the tone for the entire process.
If you’re ready to ask for divorce, it’s safe to say your marriage has serious problems. This decision may have been a long time coming. In reality, your spouse likely noticed as well. Or maybe that’s one of the issues.
But even if you’re both on the same page, the first discussion of divorce is often an emotional, volatile moment. You have a lot to consider. Whether or not things go smoothly or you fight about everything may hinge on this moment. With that in mind, here are some things to take into account when you ask for divorce.
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Don’t Broadcast It First
This should probably go without saying, but the first person who hears about this should probably be your spouse. Or at least one of the first. Sure, you’ve bounced the idea off of friends, family, and confidants. You may have even made the decision and told a close friend. But there’s a definite line.
Before you take to the social media mountaintop to declare your intentions to the world, you need to tell your spouse. This isn’t news that should come from a Facebook post or because you had one too many at a party and talked a bit too much.
Everyone will find out eventually, but the first people who need to know are the ones directly involved. If not, bitterness and hurt feelings often manifest in the divorce process. You may get friction where you wouldn’t have because of spite.
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Timing Is Everything
Timing really is everything. There’s probably not an ideal moment to ask for divorce. It’s will never be fun or easy. But consider when and where you bring up the subject.
Do it in person. This isn’t a conversation you have over email or text message. (Though in certain countries, you can get divorced via text.) Don’t have a third party deliver the message. You need to be face-to-face for this one if possible.
You may want to have your say and leave, but it’s also key to let your spouse have a turn. Most of the time, plan for a lengthy conversation. You may talk about your relationship, you may talk about the next steps, but odds are, there’s a great deal to discuss.
Pick a moment when neither of you has plans immediately after. Give yourself the time and space. If you have kids, send them to your parents or a friend’s house. Telling them is a whole different conversation. Create the room to have a serious, in-depth talk free from interruptions.
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Prepare for the Worst
Do you expect screaming? Will things be thrown? Is there the potential for physical violence? Are these extreme responses? Yes. But there almost certainly will be a reaction when you ask for divorce.
After being married, you know your spouse as well as anyone. You can likely anticipate the reaction. Will your request meet with a shocked cry or the shrug? Are you on the same page and both saw this coming? Will this lead to a shouting match or a quiet conversation?
And even if you think you know what to expect, prepare for surprises. This represents a hugely emotional event, and people don’t always act as you expect them to. Honestly, what reaction you expect may play into how you approach the when and where of the conversation.
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Shut The Door
If you’ve made up your mind, if you’re 100% ironclad certain that ending your marriage is the right choice, the only choice, shut the door.
Broaching the subject of divorce is one thing. When you have ongoing problems, you may discuss it as an option or potential avenue. That’s often part of the process to try and repair a damaged relationship. Therapy, counseling, support groups, and many other tools exist if you still think you can save your union.
But if not, if there’s no hope of reconciliation, be direct and firm. Be decisive and don’t leave vague possibilities dangling in the wind. In reality, you don’t ask for divorce. State definitively that you want to end the marriage. You don’t have to be mean about it, but don’t leave any doubt.
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Back to the Future
You probably don’t want to talk specifics as soon as you ask for divorce, but it’s not a bad idea to consider what comes next. In most cases, you’ll need some space to breathe and muddle through. But it’s also a good time to take stock of your situations.
Collect all the information you can about your shared finances. Consider what want out of the divorce settlement.
- Where do you have money?
- Where do you owe?
- What assets do you have to divide?
- Do you want the house?
- Do you want the car?
- This has a huge impact on your financial future.
If you have kids, think about child custody and what you want the parenting plan to look like. Do you want the most overnights, or is a weekend parent be the best fit for everyone?
This is just the beginning of a long process. There’s time to gather documents, assess your finances, and plan for the future. But while you may not need a step-by-step strategy, you should give it some thought. At the very least, have a good overall picture of your situation. It’s also a perfect time to figure out if you need to hire a divorce lawyer.
It’s not easy or pleasant to ask for divorce. By the time you get here, it’s probably a necessity, even a relief, but that doesn’t make it fun. Consider the impact this conversation will have. Even if it’s clear as day, this may still come as a shock. Think about what you say, when and where, and how you say it.
This is a difficult decision, probably one of the most difficult you’ll ever make. But if it truly is the right choice, it’s likely best for both of you.
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