A lot of thought and consideration is made before someone decided to call it quits on their marriage and traverse down the divorce path. Rarely, if ever, is divorce a spontaneous decision – despite it appearing that way sometimes. Divorce is one of those things that at first glance sometimes might come out of thin air and appear to be a spontaneous decision – but it rarely is divorce.
I have worked with many people who are moving towards divorce, but want to feel they have exhausted all of their efforts so that if they choose to walk away, their decision will not keep them up at night – at least anymore than they know it already will! In essence, they want to mitigate the significant amount of guilt they already feel for uprooting their life and their family into a life of uncertainty and many unknowns.
1.) Have you exhausted all your efforts? I pose this question as I know the path they will embark on, will be difficult, challenging, and bumpy. Often this means either traditional couples counseling – which helps couples discuss, sort out, and resolve their issues – or a relatively new and innovative way of relationship counseling, Discernment Counseling. Discernment Counseling is not marital counseling, but counseling that helps couples determine if their issues are even salvageable. The focus is on each person, working on their individual issues that will need to change to help the marriage stay in tact. A main focus is to determine IF the problems can be resolved, not actually resolving them at this time.
2.) Can you afford it? It is not uncommon for people to make a decision about divorce without thinking about how they will manage two households. In many situations, they want to get out of the marriage but haven’t considered what it will mean financially for both people. Ask: what is your budget? How will you support two households? What if you cannot? What are your options? How will this affect your lifestyle overall?
3.) Have you consulted with an attorney? When someone is contemplating divorce, nothing provides a clear dose of reality – both good and bad – than a consult with an attorney. An attorney will give you the nuts and bolts of marital law in your state. No more listening (and believing) the greek chorus. Although people always know someone who has experienced or is experiencing divorce, no two situations are the same. People talk to family and friends for answers and direction, but at the end of the day, speaking to an attorney is your best bet. You might not always like what they have to say, but at least you will know the marital law in your state and because of that, can make educated and knowledgeable decisions moving forward.
4.) What are the implications for the children? More often than not, couples who are divorcing, have children. Depending on their age, helps determine direction, conversations, and possible consequences. What is their age? What will impact them the most? How will you help plan for that? What would be the most disruptive for them? Will you be able to stay close to where you live now? How will you have a conversation with them about the impending divorce?
5.) What is your exit plan? There are many factors to consider before deciding on divorce. Most people think about their future to some degree, but don’t always think about an exit plan. However, being proactive rather than reactive, which often results in ‘knee jerk’ reactions, helps a person make good, solid decisions not just for the present but for your future. Your exit plan should include plans for your children (if you have them), financial plans, the impact on your work and everyday life. Do you work and if not, what is your plan to return to work? How will that change your lifestyle? Will it? If so, what is the impact it will have on your children?
Divorce is never easy. But, before you embark on that challenging life transition, consider your options and direction for your life. Consider all the questions. Think about where you are and where you want to be. Ensure that if counseling is not on the agenda, what exactly do you need to do to ensure you are on the best path possible!