Your Spouse Wants a Divorce But You Don't, Now What?

Divorcing a Reluctant Spouse

Perhaps you have been in an unhappy marriage for a while.  You may have tried couples counseling, and made multiple attempts to have a conversation about ending the marriage.  You have decided you are done, ready to get divorced.  You might have even served your spouse with divorce papers.  Perhaps your spouse was blindsided by your initial request, or simply doesn’t want to be divorced. If you are struggling to get your spouse to acknowledge and agree to move forward you are not alone.  

This can be a tenuous situation and an extremely frustrating process.  The way your divorce begins can set the tone for how the rest of the process will follow. It can impact the future relationship with your soon to be ex-spouse and affect the co-parenting relationship. We all know that moving ahead in a congenial fashion would be ideal. But once it becomes apparent that staying together is simply not going to be feasible, you will need a firm commitment, a plan and advice from a highly trained professional. 

Spousal resistance to ending a marriage occurs for many reasons. Sometimes a spouse is clinging to the hope that things can be turned around. They may want to hold on until the children are grown, so they can keep one set of parents together in their home. Maybe he or she is still in love with you, and wants to try and improve things. But if you have explored the idea of saving your marriage for some time and have come to realize that it simply cannot be accomplished, you need to make peace with your decision and create a plan to move forward. 

What to Do, What Not to Do 

Intelligently countering the resistance to a spouse’s objections in a calm and clear fashion is necessary. You might explain that it’s not the divorce that will have the greatest negative impact on your children’s well-being but rather, it is the ongoing hostility and conflict that will impact your children the most.  If your spouse truly loves your kids, remind him or her to put them first by keeping the divorce process (and the home environment) as calm and loving as possible. Resist the temptation to argue and escalate the problems. 

Divorce is rarely a decision made quickly. If you have reached this point in your relationship, it is usually after much consideration and exploration of the options.  If your spouse argues that it will be less expensive to stay together you can share the fact that it is far less expensive to have a cooperative divorce than one filled with conflict and bitterness. If they claim they are still in love with you acknowledge the love that you once shared but be clear that this is a firm decision for you; you are past the point of possible reconciliation and are ready to move forward with dissolving the marriage. 

You can talk about how things might be going forward. Discussing parenting plans, time sharing, and child support are specific issues that will need to be addressed at some point. Since the cost of mediating a divorce is significantly less expensive than a litigated dissolution you might even ask if he or she would consider private mediation. This way a judge will not be needed to make those decisions later. 

It’s not unusual to experience guilt when approaching a reluctant partner for a divorce. You will benefit from having support to help you stay strong. Consider your network of family and friends and engage in private counseling to effectively deal with your emotions as you navigate your next steps. 

Just as importantly, prepare yourself for what lies ahead. There will be conflict and disagreements and the road can be bumpy. If after contemplating all the factors of a divorce you conclude you are ready to move forward, consider consulting with a Certified Family Law Specialist who can help explain your initial options and what the process will entail. At Buncher Family Law, we offer a Clear Legal Strategy meeting as a conservative start to the process.

Posted in Divorce, Transitioning.