So you’ve had it with your spouse and are thinking it’s really over. You’ve mentally prepared for moving on and are just waiting for the right opportunity or the next major blowup to pull the plug. There are many reasons why you might want to hit the pause button: hastily making a short-term decision that may not serve you well in the long run, not having exhausted potential sources of help to repair the marriage, overly emphasizing the positives of being free versus the negatives, and a failure to address your own shortcomings and character flaws that may be contributing to your unhappiness. Each of these deserves discussion in its own right. The point of this particular piece, though, is to identify primary reasons you may want to hold off before you tell your spouse you’re done with the marriage or move out (even if your spouse has already told you s/he wants a divorce).
Unless you or your children are at risk of physical or serious psychological harm, here are nine reasons why you should pause before pulling the trigger on a separation or divorce:
- You might not have enough money to pay your bills, e.g., mortgage/rent, groceries, utilities, car payment, attorney’s fees etc.
- You could jeopardize custody/shared custody of your children
- You might make a knee-jerk decision on the wrong divorce process and lose a substantial amount of time and money
- Your retirement could be compromised
- Your credit could be destroyed
- You could lose assets, money, or property to which you’re entitled if you don’t understand the nuances of property division and taxation before you put the divorce in motion
- You might say or do stupid things that will damage your future divorce settlement, your relationship with your (ex) spouse or harm your children
- You could lose access to important information and documents that could make getting an optimal settlement more difficult and/or expensive to obtain
- You might unnecessarily leave money on the table if you jump too soon (e.g., future social security benefits, bonuses)
What can you do to avoid these mistakes? Start with a Certified Divorce Coach®. S/he can help you explore if you’re ready for separation or divorce and, if not, what steps you might take. If you do decide to move forward with a separation/divorce, s/he can assist you with determining how to tell your spouse, children, family, and friends, as well as choosing the right divorce process and lawyer.
You should also talk with a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®) who can look at your complete financial picture and assess what impact a divorce could have on your ability to pay your bills, keep your house, put the kids through college, or fund your retirement.
Additionally, you should talk with two or three different family law attorneys to identify where you may be vulnerable and how best to proceed legally.
If you know or suspect your spouse has serious psychological or psychiatric issues, talk with a qualified psychotherapist about how to best move forward. If you or your children are at risk for physical harm, this is imperative! Above all, protect yourself and your children.
It may very well be that the best path for you and your children, overall, is a divorce. A few years from now you’ll be really glad you took the time now to address the issues that could adversely affect your long-term outcome.