Breaking the News to Your Spouse
If you have children, it's very important to tell your spouse you want a separation when the children are somewhere else. You don't know how your spouse will react, so you want to give her time to calm down and digest the information. A big scene can be frightening and harmful to your children. If you pick a fight with your spouse and one of you leaves the house (and the marriage), you will leave each other frozen in rage. It's very hard to negotiate when you're both so angry.
Involving a Counselor
Your spouse may now suggest counseling. You'll have to decide whether this is too little too late, or whether you're willing to try it. You may be convinced the marriage is over, but the opportunity to actually communicate with your spouse by working with a counselor can help both of you deal better with whatever lies ahead.
If your issues are major — say chemical addiction or adultery — they may still be resolvable without a divorce, but they will take a lot of hard work. The work it takes to solve problems within a marriage may be far less than the work needed to make a new life after divorce. Make sure you've exhausted all possible alternatives before choosing divorce.
If you do agree to counseling, be clear to your spouse that either you're participating in marriage counseling to save the marriage, or you're going to divorce (or exit) counseling to help your spouse accept that the marriage is over. Some marriage counselors do both marriage counseling and exit counseling. Exit counseling assists a couple in dealing with the death of their marriage and helps them develop tools to cope in the least harmful way.
When people use divorce counseling to get a handle on the emotional issues, they're better able to focus on the legal and practical issues of their divorce and make good decisions. Emotional baggage creates most of the problems in a divorce for everyone involved — you, your spouse, and your kids. Get rid of it if you can.
Don't announce your decision to divorce when you're angry. Don't pack a bag and leave in anger, because you're inviting retaliation. If you leave, your spouse is in control of the house, the children, and the marital assets. Besides, you're likely to say things you'll regret. Things said in anger may come back to haunt you during the divorce.
Allowing Time for Acceptance
If the spouse who wants the divorce pushes too hard, the spouse being left may use desperate tactics to try to prevent it from happening. The left spouse may become irrational or threatening. This spouse may try to hide important papers, bring unnecessary motions in court, or try to convince the children that the other parent is immoral or otherwise unfit. It is wise to give the left spouse time to accept the fact of the divorce. While this may take some time and patience, it will pay off if he stops trying to keep the divorce from happening and cooperates in resolving the issues.
Some states retain vestiges of fault in their divorce laws, but those states apply fault in specific ways. For instance, in some states, a spouse who has been unfaithful can't get alimony. In some states, claims of mental cruelty or desertion may have an impact on the final property division. The American Bar Association website,
Taking Steps to Protect Yourself
If your spouse has been abusive to you or the children during the marriage, and you have reason to expect a violent reaction to your announcement, you must take precautionary steps for your protection. Discuss the nature of the violence and abuse that you've experienced with the lawyer you've selected, and find out what rights and protections you have under the law.
Most states have civil, as opposed to criminal, laws that make it possible for you to get a restraining order, also called an order of protection, to get the abuser out of the house. A judge can order your spouse to stay away from you, your home, and even the children. Telling an abusive spouse that you want a separation may be very dangerous. You may need to get that restraining order to get the separation you want. Violation of a restraining order is a criminal offense.
The most dangerous time for victims of domestic violence is when they leave the abuser. Be careful. Protect yourself and your children.
Do you have to prove your spouse did something wrong to get a divorce?
Most states now have no-fault divorce. Each state that does has its own requirements but will grant a divorce based on “irretrievable breakdown” or “irreconcilable differences.” Under no-fault law, if your spouse says it's over, it's over. When one spouse says the marriage can't be saved, the marriage is irretrievably broken.