Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"Sweetheart, I want a divorce."

Sonnets have been written and movies have been made over the fateful issue of how do you pop the question, the one that ends with, "will you marry me?"

But I haven't seen any treatment in prose or film that tackles the stickier subject of popping the question of divorce.  There are songs about divorce, D-I-V-O-R-C-E, by Tammy Wynette, being one of my favorites, but I can't recall any about broaching the subject, unless you count Earl by the Dixie Chicks.

I deal with this issue several times each week.  Potential clients schedule a consultation to learn about the law of divorce and how it applies to their situation.  Fairly often the subject of divorce has not been broached in a serious, "this is it," way, though perhaps it has been bandied about as an ongoing threat by one side or the other.

So how do you tell your spouse that you want out, the deal's off, you are escaping, you want your freedom, hasta la vista, baby?  (Another dark reference.)

The best practice is to plan for a time when you can have your spouse alone for at least an hour, free of interruptions.  Have your outline ready, what you need to discuss, what you need out of the divorce: custody, child support, division of assets, division of debts, separation of property, etc.  Predict your spouse's reaction.  Plan how you will manage it.  Say a prayer, light a candle or have a stiff drink, whatever helps your resolve, and dive in.

The big down side to this strategy is that if you and your spouse could speak this openly, it is far less likely you would be getting a divorce in the first place.  Still, some couples are mutually far enough along to manage a productive conversation.  In most cases, however, only one side is far enough along.  The other side seems to be trapped in a paleolithic mode.

If you are vulnerable, financially, physically, even emotionally, the best practice approach will not apply to you.  You already have experienced your spouse engaging in some form of extortion.  "If you don't do what I say, I'll hurt you (financially, physically, emotionally). "  If this is your situation, you have to plan your exit strategy without consulting your spouse because if you let him or her know about your plans, they'll make you pay for it.

If your spouse is likely to see your honesty as a weakness, giving him or her a head start on filing for divorce  and gathering evidence for court, then this best practice approach cannot apply to you either, because the conversation will not be equal and will not be productive.  Again, your spouse will make you pay.

At least half the time I recommend that my client have a generic conversation about divorce with their spouse.  Finding the right time is the key.  Some event has to be the catalyst so that divorce just comes up in the conversation.  But use that event to explore your spouse's reaction and thoughts.  Your spouse's response will speak volumes of whether you can set up the best practice meeting or whether you have to protect yourself by moving clandestinely.

Unfortunately, quite often the opposing party's conduct and attitudes requires the clandestine approach. In that case, we prepare the divorce complaint, the divorce is filed and process is served by a plain clothes process server.  The service of process is the first time the opposing party learns of the once impending, now pending divorce.  And by the time that process is served, we have constructed the protections you need.

Invariably, when process is served, the opposing party is shocked. "How could you do this to me?"  This  attitude will floor you because not only has the handwriting long been on the wall but it is written in bold, underlined and highlighted in fluorescent yellow!  Still, the opposing party pretends that the divorce is out of left field.

So how do you ask for a divorce?  Do you kill your spouse with kindness? "Sweetheart, you know I love you and think the world of you but this is just not working out for us.  I think we need permanent, separate vacations."  Or do you let your actions speak louder than your words ever could?

Bottom line?  When it gets real, get help.  Ask a professional.  That's what we're here for.

Michael Manely

1 comment:

  1. Divorce is such a touchy subject and I have always wondered why it is so easy to get married, yet so hard to get divorced. When I accepted getting married I had a one hour session with the pastor of my church, went to city hall "with a witness" to affirm general information, booked a church, bought a dress and "WALA" I was walking down the aisle and doing the electric slide at my reception. Yet when it was time for me to get divorced I had to attend six parental sessions, be seperated for 1.5 years, figure out how finances would be handled etc. If only we put as much effort in "BEFORE" instead of "AFTER". I have been in the situation from both sides..the one wanting the separation and the one being "SHOCKED" by the request to separate. How it is handled definitely leads to legal advice and at times it is sad that it comes to that. As far as someone approaching you with everything already sorted out, that can seem a bit impersonal and maybe even unfair as the other party has not had any time to think about it. Not sure if that is the conversation you have the same night you tell someone in the words of songstress Chrisette Michelle "WELL I THINK I'M JUST ABOUT OVER BEING YOUR GIRLFRIEND, I'M LEAVING, I'M LEAVING" Ok well not girlfriend but wife...If the other person has no idea it's coming than talking about the things that were suggested can lead to the person feeling completely out of sync and lost. However eventually, yes, those things need to be discussed, ESPECIALLY when children and homes are involved. All in all any touchy subject deserves time to be absorbed that way people can think a little more clearly and not react based on their emotions. Regardless of how much you may think you hate the person you are with, or how much you long to be out of the marriage, there is just something about when the other person makes the decision. I mean let's be honest we are human and we have feelings. My only hope is that in the end both parties can put those emotions aside and make the "right" decisions, especially when there are children involved. Let's always remember, once upon a time you loved that person with all your soul, couldn't wait to wake up to them in the morning and lay down with them at night. Don't ever forget the love you once had, even through some of the heartache. We are all human and make mistakes. If that person was SOOOOO BAD, what were you doing with them in the first place.

    So instead of bustin the windows out their car (Jazmine Sullivan) Remember the times (in a tribute to Michael Jackson)

    And to my strong women, NEVER EVER EVER..use your children as a defense mechanism...remember they love you both and there feelings have not changed. If a child support or alimony payment is missed, don't take it out on your children by not letting them see their fathers. Believe me a child will remember and cherish the time they spent with their daddy at the park or the zoo, more than they can comprehend the check that was sent "or not".

    ~Gwennie, Loven Little's favorite cousin "IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD"