156062412People commonly worry about telling their spouse they want a divorce. It is obviously a difficult conversation to have.  Some people are scared of the outcome or don’t want to hurt someone they care about. Other people just don’t know what words to use. People may also worry that their spouse will pressure them into making a different decision. People choose to address this situation in different ways. The way this message is communicated can greatly impact how the process goes and even what the resolutions may be. Here are some things to keep in mind when telling your partner you want a divorce. 1. Divorce readiness may take time. It is not uncommon for two spouses to be at different points in readiness for divorce. One spouse may want the divorce to happen right away and the other may wish it never happens. Be patient with your partner and know, that you can have a divorce in Minnesota no matter (no fault state), but sometimes patience with where your spouse is at may lead to better outcomes in the end. 2. Know there are process options. People often think they need to be ready to proceed with a litigated divorce as soon as they tell their spouse. That is not always the case. Know there are different ways to move through the process and one in particular, collaborative divorce, allows for flexibility on timing. You can pace the process in a way that works for both of you without a court intervening. 3. Discernment counseling can help. Sometimes, once a couple begins to talk about divorce, they start to question whether or not it is the best option. Discernment counseling is a specialty therapy that helps couples where one or both are considering a divorce, or are ambivalent about the future of their relationship. 4. Empathy is often the hardest part. Undoubtedly, when divorce is on the table, things haven’t been going well. There are often hard feelings between the spouses and that is not likely to change just with initiating divorce. However, the ability for one person to consider things from the other’s shoes can go a long way in healing. Try to demonstrate some sort of empathy when you have this talk – say things like “I know this is hard” or “I could understand if you feel surprised/angry/scared.” This may help lower the conflict and help initiate the divorce process in a respectful way.
CounselingAs a Collaborative Divorce Attorney, I have seen many clients who are ambivalent about getting a divorce. How do I know they are ambivalent? Because, in addition to the story they tell me, I ask potential clients to take the following survey: Even though divorce is a legal process, your emotions and your perspective on divorce, and those of your spouse, are very important and cannot be separated from the legal process. To assist me in beginning to understand your views about proceeding with divorce, please answer the following questions. 1.  People have different attitudes towards their divorce. Please check which of these statements most closely fits your own attitude right now.

(   )       I’m done with this marriage; it’s too late now even if my spouse were                            to make major changes.

(   )       I have mixed feelings about the divorce; sometimes I think it’s a good                          idea and sometimes I’m not sure. (   )       I would consider reconciling if my spouse got serious about making                               major changes. (   )       I don’t want this divorce, and I would work hard to get us back together. 2.  Readiness for Divorce People come to the divorce process with different degrees of readiness to divorce. Some may not want the divorce and are not emotionally prepared to participate in the process, while others have been ready for some time and feel impatient to get things moving. And there is a wide range of feelings in between. Please rate yourself on the scale below by circling the number that best describes your readiness for divorce today.   0        1         2         3         4        5        6        7        8         9         10 _________________________________________________________ I’m absolutely not                                                          I’m ready to move                           ready for this divorce                                                    forward immediately This survey was created by a group of collaborative divorce attorneys working with Dr. William Doherty of the University of Minnesota. After giving this survey to people whose divorces had already been filed in court (Hennepin County, Minnesota), it was determined that in 12.6% of the filed divorce cases both spouses in the marriage were not sure they wanted the divorce! This led to the recognition that there was a failure to provide services to this group of people. That has now been corrected. Couples who are ambivalent about divorce can now gain clarity about whether to move forward with a divorce or to move forward with a plan to restore the marriage to health. This clarity is achieved through specialized counseling called Discernment Counseling. Discernment Counseling is a focused, short-term process involving no more than 4 to 6 sessions. A Discernment Counselor helps the couple…
  1. gain clarity and confidence about what steps to take next with their marriage;
  2. understand what has happened to their marriage;
  3. look at problems from the perspective of each spouse;
  4. determine whether past counseling has been helpful or not so helpful;
  5. evaluate the possibility of solving their problems and restoring their marriage to health; and
  6. make a joint decision about whether or not to move towards divorce.
The clients I see who are ambivalent about divorce are greatly relieved to know this service exists. It provides them with a structured process where both parties can join in the decision of what to do about the marriage. If the couple decides to try to restore the marriage to health, they move to specialized counseling to create a plan for that to happen. If the couple decides to end the marriage, they are in a much better place to undertake a constructive and peaceful divorce. For more information about Discernment Counseling and to find a Discernment Counselor please go to www.collaborativelaw.org and www.mncouplesonthebrink.org.