If you are thinking about divorce, you could be stuck in a cycle of should I or shouldn’t I. After all, it is a life-altering decision, and definitely not one that should be made lightly. Contemplating a divorce can evoke a range of often conflicting thoughts.
When considering divorce, you may find yourself oscillating between ifs and buts, whys and maybes. You know you need a divorce. The marriage has been standing on its last legs for some time now. But what about the kids? The families? Society? Your own future? That of your spouse? It’s not unusual for those contemplating dissolving a marriage to hide behind such reasoning and continue to stay in an unhappy marriage.
Of course, there is a long list of things to consider when thinking about divorce. Among them is also the undeniable reality that the long-drawn-out battle can drain you physically, financially, mentally and most importantly, emotionally. To help make the decision a tad easier, we’re here to tell you what to do when thinking about divorce in consultation with advocate Siddhartha Mishra (BA, LLB), a lawyer practicing at the Supreme Court of India.
When Is Divorce The Right Answer?
In situations where your wife is physically abusing you or your husband has anger issues that lead to violence or when one of the spouses is cheating, you have valid reasons to end the marriage. If you have an alcoholic husband who refuses to get help even after you have been requesting him to do so, divorce might be a way out. In such a case, thinking about divorce is completely understood.
But are you making empty threats? Are you thinking of divorce without even trying to seek help from a professional? Contemplating a divorce and actually getting one are two different things. You may find yourself consumed by dilemmas like “I’m scared to tell my husband I want a divorce” or “I want a divorce but my wife can’t support herself”. That’s why, no matter how grim the situation may be, it is always prudent to ensure that you have exhausted all your options before sounding the death knell for your marriage. Thinking about divorce? Think again.
For instance, if your marital bond has taken a hit due to infidelity, have you tried to reach out to your spouse and discussed the possibility of seeking counseling or therapy to work through your issues? Except in the cases where the underlying issue is abuse – mental, physical or sexual – there are always means and ways to salvage a marriage.
If the marriage is abusive, that is certainly when is divorce the right answer. In most other situations, most couples tend to start entertaining thoughts of divorce before having explored and exhausted all their options. Evaluate your marriage and explore ways to better it.
Siddhartha says, “With divorce no longer taboo, the number of couples breaking their marital vows has increased. While a lot of younger couples are eager to fix a relationship, there is still a vast number of couples who give up on marriage too quickly before seeking expert help. When you’re thinking about divorce, remember that there is no such thing as a painless divorce.
“As a lawyer, I counsel the couples not to get into the unholy affair of separation. But to my surprise, in a majority of cases, the intent is to gain an upper hand over the spouse, due to which couples often engage in allegations and counter-allegations.”
The option of divorce should not be thrown around carelessly. For instance, thinking about divorce after a baby just because the spark seems to have fizzled out between you and your spouse isn’t the wisest choice. Never lose sight of the fact that it is the end of a marriage.
Before you let the confusion wreck your mental peace, focus your energies on the things to consider when thinking about divorce. Thinking about divorce without having a real concrete base also indicates your lack of seriousness toward the marriage and the relationship.
So, when is divorce the right answer? “The reasons and justifications for divorce can vary from alcoholism to psychiatric problems, increased financial independence, high expectations and a general trend of increased intolerance among couples. But what makes it a murky business is that most people overlook some of the most important things to consider when thinking about divorce and focus too much on the irrelevant stuff,” Siddhartha replies.
Related Reading: 15 Warning Signs You Need A Divorce For Sure
10 Things To Do When You Are Thinking About Divorce
Is your marriage abusive? Do you just not like your spouse anymore? Has that led you to stray from the marriage? Have you realized your wife does not want children? Are you wracked with fear your lineage would end? Have you been thinking about divorce for years because you’re in a loveless marriage? Whatever the reason, ask yourself if small fights or a grave mistake is worth ending your marriage.
If you’re thinking about divorce but scared to act on that thought, follow these 10 steps to gain clarity over what your future course of action should be:
1. Is there a way to save the marriage?
Your marriage may be a shambles. That is why you’re thinking about divorce. But it did not happen in a day. If you have noticed a pattern of your spouse’s financial irresponsibility or infidelity or simply the fact that you don’t like each other anymore, is divorce the only answer to it?
If thinking about divorce, think again: have you voiced your concerns and mental state to your spouse? Have you considered seeking professional help or going into therapy as a couple? Here’s what to do when thinking about divorce – make sure you’ve tried everything in your power to salvage your marriage before you go looking for attorneys.
Filing for a divorce before trying to fix your marriage will leave you riddled with an unshakable sense of guilt. If your life after the divorce does not turn out to be as good as you had imagined, then you will have to live with the regret of letting go of such an important part of your life for as long as you shall breathe.
If you’re thinking about divorce but scared to take the leap, it’s a good opportunity to remind yourself that ending a marriage should ALWAYS be the last recourse.
2. Thinking about divorce? Talk to someone
“My husband is thinking about divorce and I too think it’s the best way forward for us.” “I’m scared to tell my husband I want a divorce.” “I want a divorce but my wife can’t support herself, does that mean I should stay in an unhappy marriage?” Many confusing thoughts like these can cloud your judgment when you’re at the cusp of dissolving a marriage.
Divorce is no child’s play and it’s definitely not an easy way to figure out if you want to stay married or get divorced. Even if there have been problems in the marriage, knowing for sure if divorce is the answer is not an easy task. Try opening up about your problems to someone who can take an unbiased stand. Be careful who you go looking for some advice because not all of them will be without judgment.
In the delicate state that you are in you could be thinking about divorce every day. In such a situation, you don’t need someone telling you it’s okay not to think too much and to go with your gut feeling. If you act on that advice, you may regret having acted in haste later.
At the same time, friends and family cannot have an unbiased opinion on the matter. If they empathize with your situation, they may egg you on to go turn your thoughts on divorce into reality. On the other hand, if they think that divorce may impact your spouse or children adversely, they may not have your best interest at heart.
“Your best recourse is to seek an opinion of an expert who can lay out the pros and cons of getting a divorce as they are. You need this pragmatic, dispassionate view to make an informed choice,” advises Siddhartha.
3. Think of your children, if you have any
“My wife and I had decided to go through with the divorce and were already living separately for almost 6 months. Then, one day, I heard my 7-year-old son asking his cousin, “Do you know what to do if your parents are thinking about divorce? I’m scared my dad would forget all about me.” Then, we noticed he was developing a stammering problem. To save him from all the agony, we decided to give the marriage another chance,” says Bob, a marketing professional.
When considering divorce, you cannot overlook the impact your decision will have on the children. How close are the children with your spouse? A divorce will legally split your family which means if you get custody of the children, your spouse will have to see the children as stipulated by the court. The ugliness of custody battles, as well as the emotional and mental trauma that children go through in such circumstances, must be factored in and duly deliberated when thinking about divorce.
“The divorce of parents, even if it is an amicable decision, tears apart a family – the fundamental unit of society. There is a strong correlation between family background and such problems as crime, abuse and neglect, and addictions. Divorce impedes learning in children by disrupting productive study patterns as children are forced to move between domiciles. It also increases anxiety and risk of depression in both parents and children,” Siddhartha says.
Children are impressionable and highly imaginative. Think about how it is going to affect them and how you intend to make them understand the situation should you choose to split.
Related Reading: How I Prepared Myself and My Kids for a Divorce
4. Start saving up
Among the things to consider when thinking about divorce is the financial strain that it will put on you. Apart from the legal proceedings and hiring a lawyer – both of which will require a lump sum of money – you also need to start saving up money to sustain yourself after separating from your spouse.
Are you intending to move out? Are there signs you need a divorce? If so, start looking for places. Start saving liquid cash. Opening up a savings account just for post-divorce use is a good way to begin.
Siddhartha says, “If you see clear signs you are ready for divorce, it is vital to start consolidating your finances as soon as you’ve made up your mind about dissolving the marriage. For this, you need clarity on your and your spouse’s financial standing. This includes debts, assets, savings, income. That means you need to start assimilating paperwork pertaining to bank statements, tax returns, investment accounts, retirement accounts, mortgage statements, loan documents, and so on.”
If your spouse still hasn’t got any idea of an impending divorce, it might be wise to keep the existence of the account under wraps. You will need all the money you can save if you are thinking of divorce. Your finances will give you the courage to get past the thinking about divorce but scared state of mind.
Not all lawyers will offer the same advice. Even if you have a family lawyer, it’s better to keep them out of the loop for this one. If you’re still contemplating divorce and want to consult a lawyer just to know what your options are, bringing in your family lawyer can unnecessarily set off alarm bells.
If you’re still on the fence about this decision and grappling with dilemmas like “I’m scared to tell my husband I want a divorce” or “I want a divorce but my wife can’t support herself, how should I handle this situation?”, it’s best to seek advice from a professional who isn’t linked to your family in any way.
Do an exhaustive research on your own and zero-in on three to four lawyers whose outlook best aligns with your needs. For instance, if you want a definite win and don’t care if your spouse is hurt at the end of the long haul, you may be better off choosing someone with a good track record of wins.
Hiring expensive lawyers might not be the best decision, especially if the divorce is likely to result in a severe money crunch. It is important to remember that you have to think of your life after divorce. Spending money on an expensive lawyer can leave you penniless. It’s best to choose a divorce lawyer suited to your financial, legal and emotional needs.
6. Try not to tell everyone that you are thinking of a divorce
This is a marriage ending. Needless to say, your life will be a complicated mess at least for the foreseeable future. So, resist the temptation to tell your friends and family that you are thinking of a divorce before you’ve had it all worked out. Most people will try and get the details about your crumbling marriage and use it as gossip for their Sunday brunch.
Even well-meaning well-wishers won’t be able to help you make your decision. But once you initiate a conversation on the matter, you will find yourself at the receiving end of a barrage of questions and unsolicited advice. When your life is in such a churn, you just may not have the energy to deal with it all. On top of that, there will be those who turn you into the object of their pity, carelessly throwing around reactions like “Oh, poor thing” and “My heart goes out to you”.
Remember you do not need sympathy from anyone. You need to think straight and take concrete steps. Besides, if you’ve been thinking about divorce for years and have finally made up your mind to go through with it, all this unsolicited advice can leave you confused again. Only a couple of people close to you will be able to show you the right path. So, keep your circle small when you’re thinking about divorce and seeking a sounding board to assess your decision.
Related Reading: Whose Advice Should I Take for My Divorce? 9 Tips to Keep in Mind
7. Read up on all the laws of divorce
You need to read up on the grounds where you can be granted a divorce, especially if this isn’t going to be a mutual divorce. “If one spouse is the sole breadwinner of the family and the other has given up their career to take care of the family, the likelihood of a judge granting alimony and maintenance in such circumstances is high,” says Siddhartha.
Similarly, if a wife is treated with cruelty in marriage, she is entitled to maintenance money, considering she has been living separately from her husband. If you have children, it becomes equally crucial to learn about custody rights.
Is there anything in your past that can be used against you in the legal battle? If yes, what are your legal options? How best can you counter the narrative? While you are still confused about whether to get a divorce or not, read up about all divorce laws in your country.
Wondering what to do when thinking about divorce? Well, the first order of business is to have your ducks in a row. Understand the legal intricacies and assess them vis-a-vis the ground realities of your marriage. Don’t be in denial about the things that can go against you during divorce proceedings. Instead, work with your legal counsel to figure out how to prepare for worst-case scenarios.
8. Keep away from social media
This cannot be stressed enough – steer clear of the temptation to rant online for your followers or friends. Divorce and social media can be a volatile mix if not handled maturely. Remember that social media is just not the place to let anyone know about the troubles in your marriage or the fact that you are thinking about divorce.
Even leaving a cryptic message could lead to people gossiping online, so never ever open yourself for that. Besides, airing your dirty linen in public can backfire, if and when you do decide to get a divorce and are entangled in a legal battle with your spouse. It’s also a good idea to cleanse your social media of any posts where the optics are wrong.
For instance, if there are pictures of you passed out drunk after a party, these can be used in court to contest your fitness as a parent. When considering divorce, you can never be too careful in ensuring that your estranged spouse doesn’t put any slip-ups out of context and use them against you. So tread cautiously and don’t let emotions get the better of you.
Related Reading: 8 Ways Social Media And Divorce Are Interconnected
9. Take care of yourself
It’s easy to lose yourself in the overwhelming journey from thinking about divorce to getting one. Yes, it’s a challenging phase of life but you must actively work toward keeping your sanity intact during a divorce, both at home and at work. Going through a divorce can be a harrowing experience so it is important that you stick to a routine and do the things you enjoy.
Despite the signs that you need a divorce, you need to carry on with life. The run-up to the divorce is the best time to prepare yourself for it. Take time out for the things you enjoy, even if you’re living separately and almost single-handedly shouldering the responsibilities of your children.
If you enjoy cooking, take the time to fix home-cooked meals. Don’t stop hanging out with your friends or taking those yoga classes that have been a part of your routine for as long as you can remember. Live your life as you have been all along, even if you are in the process of separating from your spouse.
10. Start imagining life after divorce
Don’t stay in denial about the reality of your life even when you see the signs you are ready for divorce. This is something many people do and end up in shambles after the divorce. Think of how you will afford a new home. Will you have support for the child (children)? Will you be able to bring up the child alone? Can you take care of the groceries, bills, banking, investments, children’s education all by yourself?
Would you be able to afford the same lifestyle you have now or would you have to tone it down? Will that make you unhappy or it doesn’t matter as long as you are free? “It’s a good idea to journal these thoughts and prepare a concrete life plan for your life post-divorce. Sometimes people decide on divorce on an impulse. A reality check on what life would be like after divorce can help you put off any hasty decisions,” advises Siddhartha.
It is a separate matter if you are in an abusive marriage, otherwise, divorce is a decision that needs thinking. It’s important to plan it out and get a reality check before you file for a divorce.
Related Reading: Why Are Divorce Rates So High In Celebrity Marriages?
What would we advise people who are thinking about divorce?
If you are thinking about divorce and have talked to people around you about it, then you may find yourself utterly confused by the conflicting list of dos and don’ts being doled out. To sift out the right advice from a sea of opinions, ideas and suggestions is not easy.
A lot of times people who you turn to for advice may not have a clear idea about the divorce laws or how these proceedings pan out. They just may not know what to say to someone thinking about divorce. At best, they may be basing their advice on the experiences of others around them, at worst, on pulp fiction and TV shows.
To help you separate the wheat from the chaff, lawyer Siddhartha Mishra has come concrete advice for people who are thinking about divorce:
1. Divorce mediation
Not all divorces land up in court and are contested. Try to go for divorce mediation or divorce by mutual consent to make the whole process easier for both of you. Contesting would mean regular court appearances and loss of financial resources.
2. Get your papers ready
This is a very important step. Get your financial and legal papers in place if you are thinking about a divorce. Being organized about these things will make things smoother for you.
3. There is no clear winner
Be it a contested divorce or one through mutual consent, none of the spouses are clear winners. One might have to pay less alimony but could get limited visitation rights. You win some, you lose some.
4. Keep the children away from the complications
Do not drag the children into the battle, badmouth each other in front of them or keep fighting in front of them. This could have long-term consequences that you will not like.
5. Be honest
Some couples have the tendency to hide or destroy prenuptial agreements or their financial investments. It’s best to be honest with your attorney and spouse when you are going through a divorce.
Backing the advice, divorce attorney Laura Wasser says, “Prenuptials don’t really work if you don’t have tons of money. What you need to know is the expectations you have from the divorce and you need to communicate that clearly.”
6. Don’t be swayed by emotions
If you’re thinking about divorce or going through with it, it is only natural that the state of your marriage is far from ideal. In such a situation, it’s only natural for your emotions to be all over the place. But don’t let the hurt, anger, pain and sense of loss impede your objectivity and clarity of thought.
A divorce will turn your life upside down, and you need to not be blindsided by emotions to be able to gather the pieces and start afresh.
7. Keep track of all your communication with your spouse
Keep track and maintain a record of all communication between you and your spouse after the decision to get a divorce is final. This includes letters, phone calls, social media interactions as well as in-person conversations. These can prove to be important weapons in strengthening you case, particularly if there is any kind of abuse or threat involved.
Divorce attorney James Sexton says, “When people buy a house they fill up 50 forms and want to know the legal implications of the loan they are taking, the rights of the property and so on. But when they get married all they want to talk about is the decoration on the wedding cake. Marriage is also legally binding and you should know every detail about it when you slip on the wedding ring.”
Divorce laws differ from country to country. In India, living separately is a must before you file for a divorce. On the other hand, in many states in the US, separation before a divorce is not necessary. In some places, the separation agreement is drawn up only after the divorce is filed. So know your legal rights and take your steps accordingly if you see the signs divorce is inevitable.
If you’re thinking about divorce a lot, it’s a sign that your marriage is not in the best state. However, this doesn’t mean that divorce is the only option available to you. Evaluate your marriage and explore ways to better it, saving divorce as the last recourse.
It depends on how frequently and how deeply you’re entertaining thoughts about divorce. If it is a fleeting thought in a moment of anger or rage toward your spouse, then it is both normal and harmless. On the other hand, if it’s a thought that you just cannot shake off, even when things are seemingly normal between you and your partner, then it points to a deeper problem in the marriage.
Infidelity, addiction, abuse, drifting apart, breaking down of communication channels, frequent fights, falling out of love, finding yourself attracted to other people are some of the common warning signs of divorce.
Yes, in most cases, divorce can be avoided. Contemplating a divorce and actually getting one are two different things. No matter how grim the situation may be, it is always prudent to ensure that you have exhausted all your options before sounding the death knell for your marriage.