How do I know when it’s time to get divorced?
This is a question often posed by my clients considering divorce. Even though they may have been living in an unhappy marital situation for months or years, and perhaps even been separated during that time, they still find it hard to know if or when they should begin the divorce process.
Factors that Can Affect Divorce Readiness
It isn’t really the role of a family lawyer (or even a therapist, for that matter) to tell a client when they are emotionally ready to file for divorce. That is a personal decision that needs to be made after much reflection and consideration of his or her particular situation. There are factors, though, that can hasten the decision to consult with a divorce professional, such as:
1. Lack of financial transparency - when one spouse has questions or concerns about how the other spouse is handling money, there are options for obtaining more information and stopping inappropriate behavior.
2. High level of conflict – if there is ongoing conflict between the spouses or between a parent and a child, it may be damaging the emotional health of everyone living in that environment.
3. Addiction or Substance Abuse – if a family member is having difficulty controlling his or her behavior because of an addiction, it usually leads to negative financial and emotional consequences for the entire family.
4. Infidelity – when a spouse is romantically involved with a third party, they often become less physically or emotionally available, which can impact their parenting. Money may have been spent on the paramour, which can affect the amount of marital property left to be divided.
5. Physical or Mental Disability – a family member with a debilitating physical or mental condition poses significant challenges to daily routines which may become difficult to endure.
Troubled marriages often include at least one of the factors above, some more severe than others. But many divorces are simply the result of two people that have outgrown each other and are no longer happy living together. In the current Covid-19 pandemic environment, differences between spouses and problems in the family are magnified because of the increased time spent together.
Moving Forward Without Regret
No one wants to look back with regret. People need to feel like they have tried really hard to work on their marriage before they decide to end it. They may talk with professional or religious counselors. Even if the work to try to save the marriage isn’t successful, change is scary. It’s still really hard to make the decision to move forward.
Over the years, I have asked my clients one question that really seems to help them:
Is the fear of the unknown more attractive to you than staying in the known?
If the answer is yes, it may be time for you to get divorced.