While every couple will decide that divorce is the best option at different times, there are a few signs that you are ready for divorce. The decision to get a divorce is not an easy one to make but understanding why the decision is made and that it would be the best option for the family can help make the process feel worthwhile. When a relationship is heading for divorce, a couple will often begin to see signs that divorce is on the horizon or that they are ready for divorce. Because divorce is a long process that often involves discussing personal matters with the court, it can be an arduous process to go through. This is why it is important to determine that you are ready when you go into a divorce.
This article will briefly discuss the divorce process and outline what a party will need to be prepared for when going into a divorce. Next, it will discuss scenarios when divorce is the best option for a couple, as well as give suggestions for people who do not feel ready for divorce. After this, it will outline several signs that indicate that you or your family is ready for divorce and provide an outline for how to prepare, both before and after you discuss the possibility with your partner. It is important to acknowledge when you are ready and when there are other options to try, as well as to have a basic understanding of the process before jumping in.
The Divorce Process Explained
Divorce is the process by which a married couple legally separates. This involves the division of assets, determination of parenting time and custody, and any support necessary between the partners. It is often an emotional and personal process as a family has to learn to live apart. However, the actual legal process of divorce can often feel cold and unforgiving, especially if it happens in a highly adversarial court trial. Because the process is difficult, it is important to prepare adequately and understand what will happen to ensure that both partners are cared for.
Before anything is filed, the partners will usually discuss the idea of separation. This can happen mutually and the parties may agree to separate their lives. They may have been separated long before anything is filed. Some states may even require that the parties live separately for a time before the divorce proceedings may begin. However, in some cases, the discussion about separation and divorce may come as a shock to the other party, especially if they are oblivious to the difficulties in the relationship. If you are preparing to have this conversation with your spouse, understand that it may be difficult, but it is a vital step in the process of divorce. It can create a space where the parties can discuss the split amicably and agree on key aspects of the split.
Once the parties have decided that a divorce is the best option for them, they can begin the legal process. This will begin with the petition and move through several steps before the parties are officially divorced. These steps include:
- Petition: The official divorce proceedings will begin with a petition filed in court. The petition is written by one spouse and served upon the other. The petition will often include information about the couple’s marriage, the parties involved, any children or property that the spouses may share, and requests for custody and support.
- Response: Once the respondent receives the petition, they will have a set amount of time to respond. This will include any agreement with the petition or any differences that the respondent would like to see in the final decree.
- Default: Default will happen if the responding spouse fails to reply to the petition. The petitioning spouse may ask the court to grant a default judgment and rule in the petitioning spouse’s favor. In this case, the divorce will be final. However, there are often ways that a spouse may request that the file be reopened, so this is not always the final result.
- Intermediary Hearings: Between when the petition is filed and the trial, there will often be a series of intermediary hearings where the court will rule on motions, temporary custody and support orders, and other orders that may be needed while the parties are still working on getting the divorce.
- Settlement: At any point before trial, the parties may settle the case. This can happen through informal negotiations or it may happen during mediation. The spouses may also agree to the whole divorce, or they may agree to some or most things and leave a few aspects of the divorce up to the trial judge.
- Trial: When any aspect of the divorce cannot be agreed to, the spouses will need to have a trial to determine how these provisions of the divorce will be handled. At the trial, the spouses will present their evidence to the court and the court will decide on the aspects that need to be decided, such as asset division, child custody, or support.
While there is variation based on the state that the divorce is taking place in and the couple, this is a basic outline of what a divorce through litigation will typically look like. When considering a divorce, it is important to understand the process that is in front of you.
Signs Divorce is a Good Option:
While no divorce is going to happen without some pain and hard decisions, there are instances where divorce is likely the healthiest option for you and your spouse. Every person will have their reasons for deciding to get a divorce, but the following reasons to leave may help assess if a divorce is the best option.
- Abuse: Abuse in a relationship means that the relationship is not healthy, and it is dangerous for the victim to stay in the relationship. However, it can often be difficult for the victim to leave. Divorce is necessary in cases of abuse to allow the victim to live a life separate from the abuser.
- Substance Issues: This will often accompany abuse, but instances of substance abuse where the spouse that has an issue with addictive substances will not acknowledge the problem or seek help are not healthy. To be clear, this is referring to instances where the partner is refusing to acknowledge the problem and the issues that it has caused for the relationship. Spouses are often able to stay together when the addicted spouse is willing and committed to getting help.
- Unfaithfulness: Many couples experience unfaithfulness and can work through it and trust each other again. However, there are also cases where it is not healthy for the parties to stay together, especially in cases where the unfaithful spouse is not remorseful and the other spouse is accommodating to keep the marriage together.
- Grudges: Healthy relationships can forgive each other for fights and mistakes. However, relationships where the partners hold grudges and consistently bring up old wrongs during current arguments usually mean that the spouses have not processed through the wrongs and will likely not have the ability to process through the current issues in the relationship.
- Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity: While this is not always a cause for divorce, it is common that one spouse will come to terms with their sexual orientation or gender identity later in life, and that will affect the marriage. This will often lead to times of growth for both parties and can lead to very amicable divorces, but it can affect the relationship at the center of the marriage.
- Role Modeling: When couples have kids or are role models for kids, there can often be higher regard put on their relationship. When children are looking to a relationship as a standard for their own, it is important that the relationship demonstrated is healthy. If the relationship that you are in models unhealthy behavior for the children in your life, it may be time to consider whether a divorce may be for you.
- New Life: If the prospect of having the freedom and new experiences that a divorce can bring is more exciting to you than the idea of staying in your marriage, it may be time to consider a divorce.
- Healthy Home: Especially if children are in the marriage, but for any relationship, if the home has become hostile instead of happy, it may be time to leave. Even if it is disappointing for the kids to have their parents split up, it will be healthier for them to experience a happy and healthy home.
- Growth: When people are in a relationship, they can either push each other to grow or stifle each other’s growth. When partners are stifling the growth of the other spouse, it may be time to consider getting a divorce.
All of these instances may provide a place for the parties to step into a divorce in a way that will be the healthiest possible solution for them. However, in some of these situations, divorce may not be accessible, so it is also important to understand the alternatives to divorce.
Possible Options Besides Divorce
While divorce is one of the best options if you are in a relationship that is unhealthy, it may not be the best option for everyone or every situation. Therefore, when considering whether or not you are ready for a divorce, it is important to consider the other options available for you and your spouse. Some alternatives include working on the relationship to stay in it. Others include expanding or shifting the relationship. Finally, some options will effectively end the relationship without actually legally separating the spouses. It is important to note that if the spouses are attempting to save the relationship, they need to agree to the process and be equally committed, or it will be set up for failure from the start. Some alternatives include:
- Counseling: Often when marriages become unhealthy, it is due to issues in communication or struggles in understanding where each person is at. Attending couples counseling can be beneficial for couples who are committed to understanding what is causing the rift in the relationship and how to fix it.
- Alternative Marriages: While alternative relationships are not for everyone, some people may benefit from considering a relationship outside of the monogamous standard. This can include open relationships, where the couple is free to see other people while remaining married, or parenting relationships, where the couple stays married to parent their children, but transitions their relationship into a platonic one. Any alternative marriage needs to be adequately communicated and needs to have an option to leave if necessary or unhealthy.
- Separation: A separation can be as formal or informal as necessary and can last as long as the couple would like. An informal separation will often include the couple living separately and beginning to see if a permanent separation is best for them. A formal separation, also known as a legal separation, will have all the same determinations around children and assets as a divorce, but the couple will still be legally married and could not marry again without a divorce.
- Mediation: Mediation can both help a couple who is struggling to connect and a couple looking toward separation. Mediation can be helpful if you are struggling with a specific issue that needs to be discussed and decided. The mediator can help the couple work through the issue and agree on a plan going forward. It can also be helpful for couples that are looking to separate without the whole court process.
While there are other options, these are some of the most common options to choose from. Spouses can work together to either restore their relationship or separate cordially and freely.
Signs that You are Ready for Divorce
In some cases, however, a couple is ready for divorce and would like to begin. This may happen quickly, but it may take time to understand that you and your spouse are ready to get a divorce and move forward with your lives. There are no set ways to begin to discover that divorce is happening, but there are signs that a relationship may be ready for divorce. These signs include:
- Adversarial Arguments: It can be a sign that a couple is ready for a divorce when every argument becomes a competition about who can win, not a conversation about how to repair the relationship. This is a sign that how you perceive yourself is more important than what you put in the relationship.
- Faking: Faking can include faking with your spouse and in front of others. If you are not comfortable being fully yourself in front of your spouse, the relationship cannot be fully open. If you feel like you are acting like your marriage is better than it is in front of others, you probably are.
- Not Fighting: This may seem counterintuitive, but it is not always the best sign when a couple does not fight. This often means that one or both spouses are keeping anger and resentment inside and not communicating with each other. It can also mean that the partners do not feel that fighting is worth the effort.
- Stress: Constant stress around your spouse is a sign that the relationship is ready to move on. Our bodies often give us signs of how we are feeling, sometimes before we are aware of it, and physical reactions to your partner are often a sign that something is amiss in the relationship.
- Individualism: While having time to yourself and enjoying being alone is healthy, consistently focusing on goals and priorities for yourselves is often a sign that the marriage has broken down. It usually means that you are more focused on your individual lives than on building a life together.
- Relying on Others: A spouse is often a go-to person for certain aspects of life. They are often the first person you tell exciting or terrifying news to because they mean so much that you want to make it work. However, it is a sign that you are ready for divorce when your spouse is no longer your go-to person and you begin to go to other people first.
- Thinking about Leaving: Another telltale sign that a marriage is ready for divorce is that one or both spouses are thinking about and looking at leaving. This can be an innocent thought of if you should leave that stays in your head and continues to come up. It can also evolve to creating an exit strategy plan for when you do leave. Thinking about leaving often means that you are on the way out.
- Loss of Respect: Probably one of the biggest indicators that your marriage is ready for divorce is a complete and total loss of respect. This means that you do not believe that your spouse is reliable or credible and you do not want to consider or honor their perspective. Losing respect in this way means that you are likely not in a place to repair your relationship.
There are many other signs that a marriage is ready for divorce, but these are some common signs that may help you recognize that you are prepared and willing to go through the divorce process.
Preparing for Divorce
One of the most important steps in divorce is preparation steps. While many preparation steps will happen as you begin to discuss the divorce with your spouse, some should be considered even before you begin to discuss and proceed with the divorce. Some places will refer to these tips as ways to secretly prepare for divorce, and it may be beneficial to keep them to yourself, especially if there is the danger of abuse if your spouse finds out that you are leaving. However, it is not necessary to keep these steps secret, and they may even help spark the conversation with your spouse. Some tips include:
- Individual Accounts: Many people may not have a credit or bank account in their name. If you are preparing for divorce, you need to make sure that you have your own accounts that you will be able to use while the rest of your assets are divided.
- Write Everything Down: Especially if you anticipate that it will be a contested and adversarial divorce, it is important to write down everything that happens. Fights over the kids may become evidence for custody later on. Having a record will help jog your memory and know when and how things happened.
- Keep Track of Money: Depending on financial circumstances, it is important to begin to keep track of where the money goes to help create a financial plan for the parties. The court will need to make determinations about whether one spouse is financially dependent on the other and whether support is needed.
- Create a Game Plan: Begin to plan where each spouse should live, who has the children at certain times, and how responsibilities will be decided. You will also need to have a plan for how you address the situation with your friends and family to make sure that they understand where you are at.
If you are beginning to question the stability of your marriage, it is a good idea to prepare for separation or divorce but also to have a conversation with your spouse about the state of your relationship. While some relationships are headed for divorce, others may just need an acknowledgment of the issues and finding a way to heal. It’s up to you and your spouse to make these decisions.
Divorce is not an easy process to begin or complete, but understanding when a divorce may be the best option and how to spot a relationship that needs to end can help make those decisions. It may mean that you need to take a look at your relationship and see if an alternative to the divorce may be a better option, but it may also lead to seeing the signs that divorce is best for you and your family.