I'm Ready to Get Divorced, but My Spouse Isn't - Part 1
It’s rare in my practice for both parties to be in the same frame of mind about getting a divorce. Most often, one person is more prepared for the process and the separation, while the other party may not even have come to terms with the concept that the marriage will come to an end.
When I used to litigate, you needed grounds for divorce. If only one person wanted the divorce but had no grounds, then he or she would either have to stay married or be prepared to make a very generous settlement offer. Now, if a couple settles all parenting and financial matters between them, they may divorce based upon the grounds of “irretrievable breakdown of the relationship.”
In mediation, you can’t proceed unless both parties agree to the process. However, I have seen clients who clearly state from the beginning that they don’t want the divorce, but they agree to mediate because they see the inevitability of it and prefer mediation to litigation.
What if my spouse refuses to accept the inevitable?
- If you haven’t already done so, you can try marriage counseling as long as you are honest in your motives. Sometimes marriage counseling can help the reluctant party recognize that the marriage is over.
- If that doesn’t help, you can see if your spouse is willing to have a consultation with a mediator, even if he or she isn’t fully committed to the process as yet. Sometimes, just hearing that you are serious about wanting to end the marriage and are taking steps in that regard, helps the other person accept that the marriage is over.
- Finally, you may just have to be patient and give the other person some time to get to the same point as you. If this is the case, you should be sure not to give the other person mixed signals even though you are remaining in the marriage. If you can’t or don’t want to wait, of course, you can explore other options for divorce.
What if I’m the person who doesn’t want the marriage to end?
- Again, I would definitely suggest marriage counseling if you haven’t already done so, and again, you need to be honest with your spouse about your motives. If that is not an option, you may benefit from individual counseling to help you understand what is happening and what you can do.
- A divorce coach who is trained in helping a person deal with the process of divorce, be it through litigation, mediation or collaborative practice, could also be of help.
The bottom line is that mediation will take as long as it takes. I often get a call from one party and then weeks or even months go by before they make the first appointment for a consultation. Sometimes, even more time passes before they tell me they are ready to mediate. Like all facets of mediation, the timing and pace are completely up to the parties.
Are you thinking about divorce, but your spouse is not? Is your spouse talking divorce, but you don’t feel ready?