When you are ready to start a divorce, nothing creates more frustration than the reluctant spouse. How are you supposed to move forward with your life when your husband or wife doesn’t want a divorce? Here is my advice for dealing with the spouse who is dragging their feet. 1. Keep your long-term goals in the forefront, rather than taking short-term aggressive action. A friend of mine from another state called me recently to tell me about her meeting with a divorce lawyer. My friend wants a divorce; her husband doesn’t. The lawyer said she ought to serve and file divorce papers on her husband and tell her three children about the divorce by herself so she controlled the story to the kids. This kind of advice is what gives lawyers a bad name. Like most people with kids, my friend wants to protect them from conflict and have a good co-parenting relationship after the divorce. That means she has to work with her husband, not set up a firestorm of conflict by launching an aggressive attack. 2. Get the right support to help your spouse. A spouse who is not emotionally ready to handle a divorce can make the process difficult. It’s much more effective to connect with resources to help your spouse accept the divorce. If you have been in marriage counseling, you could enlist the counselor to facilitate conversations about your desire for a divorce and options for proceeding. Discernment counseling, which is a limited scope form of therapy, is another approach. Or you could work with a collaborative divorce coach, who is skilled at working with couples who are have a gap in their respective readiness to proceed with divorce. 3. Use the time to gather necessary financial documents. While you are letting your spouse play “catch up” emotionally, it helps to feel like you are taking steps to move forward. One task that has to happen is gathering financial information. You can contact a collaborative financial neutral to find out about their services and the information that will be needed. You can gather records, such as tax returns, mortgage documents, bank statements, and credit card statements. You can look into insurance costs as an individual and look into housing options. Gathering all the financial information usually takes some time, and there is no reason why you can’t get a start on that important step. It will make things go more quickly once you are ready to start the process. It is rare for both spouses to be in the same place emotionally when deciding to end a marriage. If you can give your spouse some time and support to accept that the marriage is over, you gain a less frustrating divorce process and a foundation for a good working relationship as co-parents.
It is not uncommon for two people to come to divorce at very different points in readiness. In fact, one spouse may not want the divorce at all. You may not have anticipated your spouse wanting a divorce, but that does not mean you can ignore it. If one spouse wants a divorce, it needs to be addressed. If things cannot be worked out in counseling, or if one of spouse is not interested in therapy to improve the marriage, you will need to address the divorce. Minnesota is a no-fault-divorce state. This means a divorce may be granted if either party wants to end the marriage–you do not both need to agree. If one of you wants divorce, the other spouse should meet with an attorney to learn about the process. You will need legal guidance to help you through the divorce process and learn about your options. Collaborative divorce is one of the best options available to divorcing couples. Collaborative divorce allows both spouses to have legal representation, but moves through the process in a respectful and non-adversarial way. If discussing parenting schedules, child custody, financial division of property, or support options is challenging for you, you may want an advocate who is also versed in the emotional needs of both of you. The Collaborative Process also allows for other neutrals to help guide and support you through the process. A child specialist can help address parenting challenges. They have expertise in child development and co-parenting challenges and they can help tailor agreements that will work for the whole family. A neutral coach can help support you emotionally through the process. Maybe you need help with communication or guidance to work on a particularly emotional issue; a coach can help with this. Indeed the collaborative structure as a whole is designed to help you be your very best in this process. Even if you don’t want the divorce, bringing your best self forward will help the process go as smoothly as possible. Divorce is not an easy process. It is particularly challenging if you don’t want the divorce. Seeking a safe and caring process may be the best thing you do for yourself and the outcomes reached. Do not let the fact that the divorce is unwanted, or comes as a surprise, hinder you. Choose a process that will help you feel safe and protected.