It can be a difficult thing if a spouse wants a divorce, particularly if you are not in agreement with your spouse about divorcing. Such a decision may grow out of a marriage that is already in trouble, or it may be sudden, and be particularly shocking to the spouse who wants to remain in the marriage. Sometimes, when the marriage has been particularly troubled, the fact that a spouse wants to get a divorce is actually a relief. This article will mainly focus on some steps you should take when this news comes as a surprise, in order to protect yourself, your right to portions of the marital estate, and your consideration of continued support of self and children.
In all of the United States, there is virtually no way to stop a marriage from ending, since every state allows a no fault divorce. This can be interpreted differently from state to state, but in the end it usually means that if a spouse wants a divorce, you may be able to stall it, but you can’t stop it. You can waste much time and money attempting to stall a divorce, but it’s unlikely that you can actually prevent the divorce from happening from a legal perspective.
When the news that a spouse wants to divorce is sudden, it’s suggested that you don’t leave your home, particularly if you have children, unless you feel that you or your children are at personal physical risk. Though you may be technically entitled to half of the property, in community property states, leaving may be construed as abandoning some if not all of your possessions. When a spouse wants a divorce, let him or her leave instead, so as not to lose these rights.
After you’ve listened to a spouse’s initial reasons for wanting a divorce, suggest counseling for you both. Even if you don’t want to continue the marriage, counseling may still help settle issues of custody, child support and division of assets. It’s natural to feel very angry, abandoned, hurt, and rejected. However, if you retaliate in any manner when a spouse wants a divorce, you could damage your rights to custody of your children or to a fair division of assets. It can be very difficult to rise above these terrible times. Even when your spouse won’t go to counseling, seek it for yourself and your children to help you through this difficult period.
You also will want to take some stock of your assets, especially liquid ones. If you feel the spouse may cheat you, you should remove, especially in a community property state, half of your liquid assets to a secure bank. Also know that should finances be very tight, you can apply to the courts in many cases, for emergency financial assistance from the spouse leaving the marriage.
You should also recognize your legal responsibility for half or more of any debt. Be sure to contact any credit card companies and remove your name from any joint credit accounts. Explain the situation; most people are very understanding. You can assume half the debt and ask it be placed on a new account you solely hold, or you can ask that your name be removed and inform the company you do not authorize any new charges. This may be helpful when it comes to determining share of debt in divorce proceedings.
If money is tight, at minimum, research and read the divorce code for your state and get well acquainted with your rights. In some cases it is more advantageous for you to be the initial filer for a divorce, and in others, it’s easier and cheaper to respond to the spouse filing for the divorce. If you can, consult a few lawyers and ask them questions about their cost, custody issues, and any issues regarding divorce that you do not understand. Most lawyers will give you a minimum half hour free consultation, which may help answer some of your questions. When money is not an issue, you should seek legal counsel immediately upon learning that your spouse wants a divorce.
For extra support, rely on friends and family, and check out the many Internet chat rooms for people experiencing these same things. These can all be helpful during this difficult time. Do take any legal advice from other folks and verify it with a lawyer or by looking up divorce code in your state.