In some marriages, both spouses come to a mutual decision that they are ready to end their marriage. They may have conflict over many other things, but on that one thing, they agree. It’s not uncommon, however, for one spouse to decide they want a divorce when the other spouse doesn’t. If your spouse wants to end the marriage, but you don’t, you may wonder if you can do anything to prevent the divorce. Take these five steps if you do not want your marriage to end.
1. Don’t Overreact
If your spouse says, “I want a divorce,” they may not fully mean it. This kind of statement can be bandied about in arguments to try to get a reaction from the other person. It’s meant to be hurtful and to put up a flag that there are serious problems, but it isn’t always meant literally. If your spouse says this, don’t automatically assume they actually mean it.
Instead, take it as a sign there are issues that need to be addressed in the marriage. Find out why your spouse thinks they feel this way and what has caused them to say this. Learn about their concerns about the marriage. Then suggest that you either work on them together or seek counseling.
2. Explore Alternatives
If your spouse truly does think they want a divorce, slow things down and suggest that you both consider all the options before making such a momentous decision. Consider the following alternatives:
- Trial separation. You and your spouse live separately without any legal intervention. The goal is to see what it feels like to live apart and determine if you want to continue that way or if reconciliation is possible. Be aware that one study showed that only 13 percent of married couples who separated were able to reconcile successfully. Your marriage may fall into that group, and you won’t know until you try.
- Make changes to your marriage. If your spouse is not happy, continuing on the way you are will not change anything. If you make significant changes to your relationship though, that may have an impact on the situation. A counselor can help you with this. Some couples change jobs, move, have a baby or adopt, start an open marriage, change their marriage ground rules, or implement significant conflict resolution procedures. Any of these changes can create significant shifts in the marriage and may allow you to find your way forward with each other.
- Legal separation. If there is no repair available to your marriage, but you have a religious or moral objection to marriage, a legal separation creates a legal and financial framework for you to live apart while continuing to be legally married to each other. Talk to your attorney about this option.
3. Protect Yourself
You may not want a divorce, but in New York state, if your spouse files for a no-fault divorce, the court will grant it. While you are working with your spouse to find a way to save your marriage through counseling or working together, it is important that you talk to an attorney. It’s crucial that you fully understand your rights and obligations if the divorce moves forward.
Your attorney will help you take steps to mitigate the effect of the divorce on your financial and business life, protecting assets and making plans to maximize your outcome. You should do this even if you adamantly do not want to get a divorce. The sooner you take steps to educate yourself and prepare for the worst, the better protected you will be. You can avoid missteps that may undermine your position in the divorce if it comes to fruition.
4. Seek Delays
If your spouse is intent on getting a divorce but you absolutely do not agree, talk with your attorney about ways to delay the process. A complex divorce can be slowed through settlement negotiations, discovery, expert evaluations, various motions in court, and other tactics, as long as they are legally valid and do not compromise the attorney’s ethical responsibilities. You can also attempt mediation first before moving forward with a litigated divorce, which can add months to the process. If you believe you just need time to convince your spouse that the marriage should be saved, these maneuvers will buy you time. Ultimately, however, if your spouse wants the divorce, it will be granted by the court.
5. Plan for a Single Life
Just as you should seek legal assistance in case your divorce moves forward, it’s also important to take actions to prepare yourself for life after marriage. Consider these to be contingency plans. Think about your living situation, your children, your career, your friendships, and your own goals and needs. Examine your options and create tentative plans for how your life would look if your marriage does end.
It may be possible to repair your marriage and deter your spouse from divorce. If that isn’t the case, you will be fully prepared for what comes next.