Saving your Marriage vs Divorce
Divorce lawyers generally think that right after the holidays, couples say they've had enough and they start looking towards divorce. I do think there's some of that, but I also think that most people thought about it before the holidays and then they decide to act on it after New Year's.
A recent study by a church and synagogue group indicates that in every church service about 30% of the married couples are thinking about divorce. So, it's not just at any special time. It is generally unlikely that something so dramatic happened over the holidays that it led to thinking about divorce for the first time. Instead it is more likely it is the first time that someone is planning on acting on the divorce.
What is the first step someone should take if planning to divorce?
Even though you've made the decision to get a divorce, does it still make sense to consider whether you've worked on your marriage enough? Why is a divorce lawyer bringing this up? First, I think it's the right thing to do – regardless of how I make my living, no marriage should be taken lightly, kids or no kids. A family lawyer should be someone who considers the entire family not just one person's needs. That's not to say that you don't have rights – you do. But I'll bet every one of you who has thought about divorce, has considered not only your own needs, but your children's and yes, your spouse's needs as well.
Before I go on, if you've made up your mind you want to divorce and are not interested in working on your marriage, then I understand, and that is your right and I'm glad to help you with your divorce. At the same time, there may be some new information you haven't seen before in this blog. And yes, I understand, there are necessary divorces – I'm not here to preach for or against a divorce.
Why do I ask the question, “How hard have you worked on your marriage?”
The reason is because it is a big decision that will affect your life, your kids' lives, and your spouse's life for many years. You should prepare yourself not only for the general fallout from a divorce, but that it can really be nasty too. If you're going to divorce, find the least conflictual way to do so – starting with uncontested, collaborative, and litigation, these processes progress from the least conflictual to the most. To reduce your conflict before any divorce, I recommend the “New Ways” for Families Parenting Program.
Before any type of divorce though, consider studies that five years after divorce, at least 50% of all divorced individuals look back and wish they had worked on the marriage harder. They're not saying they necessarily regret it, but they're just not sure they made the right decision. And if you decide to work on your marriage, a Hiller Law lawyer can do a post-nuptial agreement that sets out your divorce terms if your marriage doesn't work out.
The next question is, have you been to a good marriage counselor?
Whether you have or not, studies show that only 20% of couples who go to a traditional marriage counselor have success. This fact is for many reasons, but the main one is a lack of commitment from each party to stick with it for a while. Also, make sure your marriage counselor incorporates teaching skills that include conflict management and communication, and other important skills for a healthy marriage. There are also marriage education weekends available. If you haven't had success after trying the above, it may be time to call a divorce lawyer.
Perhaps you have a situation where you want to work on your marriage, but your spouse doesn't. Then it may be time to call a lawyer about a divorce. There are also options at Hiller Law to use legal documents, along with a letter, to encourage your spouse to work on the marriage – the letter will inform them of what areas you want them to work on regarding your marriage. The letter will also include a strong message that if your spouse is not willing to work on the marriage, then you are going for a divorce.
When it is time to call a lawyer for divorce.
The issue of saving your marriage is a complex one, and I'm not a lawyer who analyzes who should get a divorce and who shouldn't. There are divorce discernment counselors who can do that. Regardless, it is your absolute legal right to get a divorce no matter what anyone says – the United States Supreme Court has upheld any individual's right to get a divorce regardless of your reason.
I think part of my job as a family lawyer is to educate. Very few family lawyers I've come across know anything about the field of marriage counseling, especially how your lawyer can play a role in not only your divorce, but in keeping your marriage together, if that's what you want.
No matter what, you should be prepared if you're thinking about divorce. Look for blogs about questions you need to ask about critical financial decisions. For example, each parent should prepare themselves for the financial impact of divorce. I cannot emphasize enough about our belief in the “New Ways” program above – if you take this program, there is a very good chance you will have less conflict and will spend less money on your divorce. After the divorce, the quality of your life with your kids and co-parent should be better too.