What to Do When Your Spouse Asks for a Divorce

Whether you feel blindsided or know your marriage is heading to divorce, hearing your spouse ask for a divorce can be gutting and disorienting. You may also struggle with what you should do. Below, we outline six things you can do after your spouse requests a divorce.

1. Stay Calm

Feeling a storm of emotions is natural when your spouse asks for a divorce. However, it's crucial to stay calm during these conversations. How you react can significantly impact the course of the divorce process and your emotional health.

Reacting calmly to a divorce proposal is essential for effective communication. It allows both parties to express their feelings and perspectives without fear of immediate retaliation or escalation.

When you remain calm, you open a space for dialogue where each person can speak their truth, listen to the other, and foster respect. This approach can lead to more amicable decisions and may even pave the way for a civil divorce. If you do not wish to divorce, remaining amicable can also allow you both to discuss your wishes and what you believe the way forward is.

Reacting emotionally, on the other hand, can often lead to rash decisions made in the heat of the moment. These can sometimes sabotage the divorce process, making it more combative, prolonged, and emotionally draining than it needs to be.

Staying calm during such a difficult conversation isn't easy, but there are strategies you can employ. One is to practice mindfulness, which involves focusing on the present moment and accepting it without judgment. This can help you to stay grounded and avoid being swept away by strong emotions.

Deep breathing exercises can also be beneficial. When we're stressed or upset, our breathing can become quick and shallow, but consciously slowing it down can help to restore a sense of calm.

2. Ask Your Spouse (& Yourself) If Divorce Is the Answer

Asking thoughtful questions can help you understand your spouse's perspective and reveal whether divorce is really the best or only option. For instance, you could ask, "Why do you feel that divorce is the only solution?" or "What events or issues have led you to consider this step?". These questions can lead to deeper conversations about the root causes of your relationship problems.

Exploring Alternatives

If both of you are open to it, there are several alternatives to divorce that can be explored. These include:

  • Trial separation. While Maryland couples cannot file for legal separation, they can commit to living apart for a while to gain perspective on their relationship. It gives both parties a chance to miss each other, appreciate what they have, or confirm if divorce is indeed the best option.
  • Couples therapy. A professional therapist can guide you through your issues and help you understand each other better. They can provide tools and techniques to improve communication and resolve conflicts.
  • Marriage counseling. Slightly different from couples therapy, marriage counseling focuses more on the marital relationship. It can help you rediscover why you fell in love and how to rebuild a healthy relationship.

Each of these options has its own set of benefits. For example, trial separation can offer a much-needed break from constant conflict, while therapy and counseling can provide professional guidance to navigate through your issues.

3. Educate Yourself

You should educate yourself about the divorce process if your spouse is considering divorce. Even if you agree to consider alternatives, you should research the Maryland divorce process to empower and prepare yourself.

There are several benefits of educating yourself, including:

  • Reducing the risk of being taken advantage of during negotiations or legal proceedings. This knowledge equips you to engage in constructive communication with your spouse, which can help maintain a sense of respect and civility through this challenging time.
  • Affording you more time to develop a healthy post-divorce life plan. Understanding the process allows you to make informed decisions about crucial aspects such as child custody, alimony, and property division. These are not just legal matters—they deeply impact your life and the lives of your children.
  • Helping you manage the emotional and mental stress that comes with a divorce. Knowledge provides a sense of control in an otherwise tumultuous situation. So, while it may be difficult, you should not underestimate the value of understanding all aspects of the divorce process.

4. Get Your Ducks in a Row

Even if you do not believe divorce is the answer, you should commit to moving forward with confidence. While you may be tempted to bury your head in the sand, you should take steps to:

  • Assess our financial situation. Take time to make yourself aware of your current financial situation. Based on your finances, you can determine how much you can afford to pay a lawyer, whether you will need spousal support and more.
  • Gather important documents. When preparing for a divorce case, it's crucial to gather all relevant documents to ensure the process runs smoothly and your interests are adequately protected. These documents include financial records such as bank statements, tax returns, pay stubs, and retirement account statements. You should also collect property deeds, mortgage statements, and vehicle titles to establish ownership and value of shared assets. If children are involved, gather documents like school records, medical records, and evidence of childcare expenses. Documentation of any marital misconduct can be important in certain cases. Lastly, having copies of any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements is essential as they can significantly influence how assets and debts are divided.
  • Consider what your life could look like post-divorce. This proactive approach allows you to plan for the emotional, financial, and practical changes that come with ending a marriage. By envisioning your life after divorce, you can set realistic expectations and goals, helping you to make informed decisions about asset division, child custody, and other critical issues. It can also aid in your emotional healing, providing a positive future outlook to focus on during challenging times. Additionally, understanding your future needs and lifestyle can guide negotiations and help ensure you secure a fair settlement that supports your long-term well-being and stability.
  • Decide how to tell others about your divorce. You will need support throughout the divorce process. Sharing your divorce experience with others can provide emotional support and practical advice during a challenging time. Friends, family, and even professional counselors can offer comfort, perspective, and guidance, helping you navigate the complexities of divorce. It's also crucial to remember that you're not alone - many others have been through similar experiences and can provide reassurance and empathy.

Why You Shouldn’t Ignore a Divorce Petition

Sometimes after having their spouse ask for a divorce and being served with papers, people collapse and try to avoid the news. However, ignoring a divorce petition can have grave consequences.

In Maryland, the divorce process begins when one spouse (the petitioner) files a Complaint for Absolute Divorce with the court. This document outlines the grounds for divorce and any requests for things like alimony, child custody, property division, etc. The petitioner must then serve these papers to the other spouse (the respondent), who has 30 days to respond if they are served in Maryland, 60 days if they are served out-of-state, or 90 days if they are served in another country.

Failure to respond allows the court to grant your partner a default judgment. This non-response is viewed as an acquiescence to the terms laid out in the original complaint. As a result, the court may enter a default judgment, granting the divorce and potentially all the requests made by the petitioner without the respondent's input.

5. Make an Appointment with a Divorce Attorneys

If your spouse has expressed a desire for a divorce, it is highly recommended to make an appointment with a divorce attorney as soon as possible. This is crucial for several reasons, such as:

  • A seasoned divorce attorney can provide you with the necessary legal advice to navigate these issues effectively. You can benefit from the counsel and support of a skilled divorce attorney.
  • An attorney can protect your rights and ensure that you are treated fairly throughout the divorce process. They can help you understand what you are entitled to and advocate for your interests in negotiations or court proceedings.
  • An attorney can help reduce the emotional toll of divorce by providing objective guidance during this stressful time. They can handle the legalities, allowing you to focus on healing and moving forward. Even if you and your spouse are in agreement about the divorce, it's still important to seek legal counsel to ensure that all agreements are fair and legally sound.

Experienced Queen Anne’s County Divorce Lawyer

At Matthew Penick Law, our attorney offer clients personalized attention and legal counsel. When you retain our services, you can trust that our team will take the time to understand your needs and concerns to develop a client-centered approach to your case.

If your spouse wants a divorce, we are happy to discuss your legal rights and options as well as help you navigate the divorce process. Our firm handles contested and uncontested divorce cases. We also help with other divorce-related matters, including:

6. Don’t Avoid Your Feelings, Even If They’re Difficult Ones

If your spouse wants a divorce, naturally, you will have an emotional response. Divorce, much like the grieving process, is a significant life transition that often involves a profound sense of loss and emotional turmoil. Both processes share common themes of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and eventually acceptance.

Consider developing coping mechanisms that can help you address and process your emotions, such as journaling or practicing mindfulness. You should also consider seeking emotional support from friends and family, a support group, or a therapist, but you should not avoid your feeling.

If your spouse asks for a divorce, Matthew Penick Law can help you understand and navigate your next steps. Call (410) 618-0863 to get started on your case today.