By: John J. Schrot Jr.

If you are reading this you may be contemplating the prospect of divorce. Divorce is a significant decision, which undoubtedly will alter your life. A decision to divorce should be measured. A divorce generally takes much more financial and other planning than does a marriage. How does anyone know that it is the correct choice? The choice may not be yours.

Many spouses desire something more or different in their lives.  They quest for personal happiness and self-fulfillment  Spouses ages 50 and older are divorcing in record numbers, in what is referred to as the “gray divorce” revolution.  In general, it appears that the emphasis on a “biological” clock has shifted to one’s “happiness” clock.

You may know that you are not happy, and perhaps have not been for some time. It is  possible that in a time of anger you have threatened the “D” word in an effort to change your spouse’s behavior. This rarely works. Couples counseling may also be a remedial measure if the parties still have feelings for one another. However, feelings may not be enough if the marriage cannot be fixed. Counseling can also help negotiate the end of your marriage, as opposed to trying to save it.

Marriage is generally worth the effort and assistance it requires. One should work on the relationship prior to deciding to divorce. If you have a child(ren) with your spouse, divorce will likely not get that spouse out of your life. Don’t romanticize what life will be after divorce, as it may not be reality – yet it may be necessary or an improvement. Under any circumstance, change is difficult. The decision to divorce requires courage as few emerge from it unscathed. There will be significant changes, emotional and financial, not only for you but for your child(ren), if any.

To consider whether you are ready for divorce, ask yourself if you can handle divorce emotionally and financially. You must include an assessment of your psychological and financial readiness. In evaluating your psychological position, develop a strong support system to make the divorce  process manageable. Consider family, friends, and counseling support resources. Having a counselor/therapist is often comforting. Reduce the stressors in your life. Assess the vulnerability of your child(ren). If you are truly unhappy and want to end your marriage, you likely will. Divorce does not have the stigma it once had. Statistically, it is quite common. If you are terrorized by the thought and consequences of divorce, you are not presently ready for divorce. Who is responsible for the stress in the relationship? You can only change your own behavior, if you even want to. Generally, a couple in crisis has poor communication. Communication is necessary in any successful relationship.

What is your financial position? Do you have access to family financial information? Do you have financial independence? What would be your new childcare routine? Will you have access to monies? Is there education that you or your spouse need to first complete? What is the timing on any significant expenses or receipt of assets? How soon is retirement? What is your Social Security situation? Have you assessed your family’s health issues, and available health insurance in the event of divorce? Do you desire to geographically locate?

Ask yourself if you and your spouse have different values. If so, did this occur over time, and how much of a challenge is this? This can create strife. Are you arguing with and blaming each other, rather than attempting to mutually solve problems? Is it because your relationship isn’t working? Are you willing to attempt to positively communicate? Is your spouse even aware of how you feel? Are you satisfied with just letting time pass before taking any action? Pay attention to your body signals. Trust your inner guidance as to what life and health is best for yourself and your child(ren). Would you want your child(ren) to be in a marriage like yours? Are you willing to seek help to remove the confusion and fear associated with divorce? Some days the answers to these questions are clearer than others.

Psychologist, Bruce Berman PhD, has generated 8 useful questions for one to ask oneself as to divorce readiness, and they are as follows:

  1. Do you still having feelings for your partner?
  2. Were you ever really married?
  3. Are you truly ready for divorce or are you just threatening?
  4. Is this a sincere decision based on self-awareness or is it an emotionally reactive decision?
  5. What is your intent in wanting a divorce?
  6. Have you resolved your internal conflict over the divorce?
  7. Can you handle the unpleasant consequences of divorce?
  8. Are you willing to take control of your life in a responsible and mature way?

A spouse must also recognize that it may be your partner who wants the divorce. While we have been discussing your readiness and the right time to undertake a challenging divorce process, sometimes your spouse will file first. Also, if you or a child is the victim of domestic violence or other abuse you likely can’t wait for the right time. Author Emma Johnson offers the following signs that your spouse is planning to leave you and wants a divorce:

  1. Spouse stops arguing with you.
  2. Spouse spends more time with their own friends or family members than before – and less with you.
  3. Spouse becomes evasive or stops caring about future plans.
  4. Spouse’s sudden focus on their appearance.
  5. Spouse acts secretive about their phone messages, texts, mail and emails.
  6. Spouse’s sudden interest in the family finances, after leaving the money management to you.
  7. Spouse’s rejiggering of assets, credit and/or accounts.
  8. Spouse’s intercept of financial or legal documents.
  9. Spouse’s talk of how poorly their business is doing.
  10. You find strange documents about apartment or relocation offers around your home.
  11. Refusal of a stay-at-home parent to get a job, or a lesser-earning spouse to take a higher-paying position.
  12. Spouse turns down a promotion or overtime.
  13. Spouse’s sudden interest in the parties’ child(ren).
  14. Spouse’s aggressive insistence to relocate to be near their extended family.
  15. Spouse’s reduction or cessation of sex.

In certain situations divorce readiness is more apparent. There are some issues in a marriage that in general are considered major deal-breakers, in the experience of psychologist Leslie Beth Wish. These usually include domestic violence, abuse of child(ren), verbal abuse, substance abuse, uncontrollable mental illness or very debilitating disease or injury, felonies, gambling debts/addictions, affairs, embezzlement, serious financial problems, and/or a change in sexual orientation.

There is no one-size-fits-all in divorce. Every marital relationship is unique, because the spouses and their issues are. Your answers to various of the questions posed herein will likely differ from others. This is why advice from a non-professional is risky. Take time (if possible) and obtain a free consultation from an experienced family law attorney, to consider all of the impacts. You should leave the consultation with a much better understanding of whether you are ready for divorce.