No one can tell you if you should get divorced or not. They may try. But in the end, the only opinions that matters are your own and that of your spouse. However, if you’re contemplating the question “Should I get a divorce?” then chances are you’re in a confusing place. This checklist is designed to help you evaluate your current situation and what the future may look like if you were to file for divorce, all while helping you think about things you may not have previously considered.
No Such Thing as a Perfect Marriage
Despite what you may see on social media, it’s important to understand that there’s no such thing as a perfect marriage. Marriages have their ups and downs. Married life can test you in ways you had never expected, even if you’re in a healthy relationship. It’s easy for friends and family on the outside looking in to pass judgment and offer relationship advice, even though they don’t see what happens behind closed doors. When considering divorce, it comes down to your relationship with your spouse and deciding if it is going to work for you or not.
Divorce is complicated. It’s much more complicated than many people realize. Filing for divorce shouldn’t be an impulsive decision. It’s best to carefully consider all of your options before you take action. Here are the major factors you should consider before you decide to divorce.
Do You Have an Abusive Spouse?
Abuse comes in many forms. It’s important to realize that domestic abuse is more than just physical violence. Emotional, financial, and verbal abuse can be more difficult to spot but can be just as damaging. If staying in your marriage is a danger to you or your children, then you should leave or at the very least seek marriage counseling. There are many resources for domestic violence and abuse victims in Texas to find help and transition out of dangerous marriages.
Remember: physical violence is never okay. Focus first on getting to a safe place and then turn your attention to divorcing.
The Realities of Divorcing
When thinking about divorce, it’s important to compare your life now to a realistic version of your life post-divorce. While you might imagine your life after divorce as rainbows and sunshine you need to ask yourself if you’re being realistic. A lot will change including living arrangements, finances, work, children, family, friendships, and more.
If you’re the spouse that makes more money in the household be aware that you may need to pay child support or spousal support. If you’re the spouse that makes less money or if you’re a stay-at-home spouse then you may be eligible for child support or spousal maintenance, but that doesn’t mean you can rely on that money to pay your way.
You may have more time to pursue your desires, but will you have the means? Write down all the ways in which your life will change – both positive and negative. Take your time to make sure you’re thinking about every aspect then compare the side of the list by side. This may provide some clarity on if you want to put the effort into the divorce or into your marriage.
Why Are You Considering Divorce?
If abuse is not the cause, then spend some time thinking about what makes you dissatisfied with your marriage and why you’re considering ending it. Understanding your reason for divorce is important. Spending some time digging into what you want or need that the marriage isn’t providing you can provide powerful insight into yourself, your spouse, and your marriage. This self-awareness is a powerful tool that you can use to work on saving your marriage or finding a different path to happiness.
· Consider Marriage Counseling
Many problems within a marriage can be improved. If the reason you’re contemplating divorce is based on communication, mistrust, lack of appreciation, or some other emotion, then a marriage therapist may be able to help. There’s no shame if you decide to try marriage counseling. Speaking to a professional together or even on your own can offer insight into the troubles you’re facing while providing tools to help you and your spouse through a difficult time. Sometimes, just having an impartial party guide you through your troubles can make a big difference. If you’re uncomfortable seeing someone in person, then you may want to consider online therapy. Online counseling is still a great way to try marriage counseling and dig into those emotional factors to build a civil partnership.
· Consider Financial Counseling
Quite a few marriages end in divorce due to a financial situation. Often this financial stress is caused by two different financial personalities such as a spender and a saver. Sometimes it’s a result of two spenders who struggle to save. If finances are the problem, then you may benefit from speaking with a financial planner or financial advisor to help you get out of debt and plan for the future together while learning how to adapt spending habits.
· Talk to Your Spouse
Sometimes, deciding whether or not you should divorce is as simple as having a serious conversation with your spouse. Tell them what you’re thinking and how you feel. Ask about their thoughts and feelings and genuinely listen. The key here is for both parties to keep an open mind and not get defensive. This is challenging as it may feel as though one person is placing all of the blame on the other. However, remember that a marriage is a partnership, and you didn’t get to this place without influence from both sides. Your spouse may be just as unhappy as you are. The focus should be on the two of you versus the problem, not versus each other. If abuse isn’t involved and you both prefer to save the marriage, then civil communication is a tool worth mastering.
Divorcing and Finances
Divorce is not cheap. For many, it costs more than they thought it would. The financial component of getting divorced is significant and often lasting. Consider each of the following:
· Are you prepared for the divorce cost?
Budgeting for divorce is tricky as it’s sometimes hard to predict how the divorce mediation and divorce proceedings will go. Mediation is the least expensive option; however, it requires you and your spouse to get along and agree on every issue with the guidance of a divorce mediator. If you can’t agree, then you’ll likely end up in court which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. While it may be tempting to have a DIY divorce, you run the very serious risk of being taken advantage of or finding yourself in a situation you can’t get out of. It’s strongly advised that you each have your own divorce lawyers when it comes to your legal separation or divorce.
· How will you support yourself after the divorce?
If you were a stay-at-home mother or father during the marriage, how will you support yourself after the divorce? The state of Texas does have spousal support, however, it’s not the norm and a spouse must meet certain qualifications to qualify. Getting spousal support is also very difficult without a qualified attorney.
Dividing a household results in higher bills. While this may seem like common sense, most people don’t realize that it’s more than just doubling the cable bill. Think of all of the bills you pay that include discounts for multiple products. For example, it’s often less expensive to have a multi-car insurance policy than it is to ensure each vehicle independently. Health insurance policies are the same way. Some of these things can be negotiated with your spouse to keep living expenses down. However, many policies will not allow you to share an account if you’re not living together.
· Dividing Joint Assets
Think about the assets you’ve gained together. Real estate, vehicles, cash, retirement accounts, and investments. These will need to be divided. In many situations, if you own a house together then you may decide to sell the home and split any profits. However, those profits may not provide you with the leverage you need to purchase a new home. This is especially true if you purchased your home more than five years ago.
If you own a small business together, you’ll also need to navigate what happens to the business during and after the divorce process.
Children and Divorce
If you have children, they’re dependent on you. Logistics regarding kids become much more challenging after a divorce. You’ll need to work together to decide:
- Who gets child custody?
- When and where will custody be exchanged?
- Where will the children live?
- Where will the children go to school?
- Who will take them to school?
- Who will take them to after-school activities?
- How will you manage visitation?
- What will happen if one parent wants to move?
- How will extra-curricular events be paid for?
- How will you manage the holidays?
These questions and so much more will come to fruition.
On top of the logistics, there’s an emotional burden on children. Experiencing your parent’s divorce is never easy, even if it makes sense that they split. This is especially true when one parent tries to alienate the children against the other. It’s best if you never speak negatively about the other parent in the child’s presence, however, emotions run high during divorce, and this can be difficult. Even the most civil of divorces can take their toll on a child’s emotional and mental health. It may even be a good idea for you to all see a family therapist as you work through the process.
Don’t Divorce Alone
If you do decide in the end that divorce is the best solution for you and your family, then don’t try to do it alone. The best thing you can do for yourself, and your children is to look into hiring an attorney. A qualified divorce attorney will help you get prepared for divorce and guide you along the divorce process. They will have you and your children’s best interests in mind and help you work toward a fair divorce settlement.
A qualified family law attorney from The Jimenez Law Firm has the experience and education to provide solid legal advice throughout the divorce process. They’re also able to guide you through the process of child support, child custody, and spousal maintenance.