Don’t negotiate in the days following the decision to divorce

If your spouse was the one to announce that they want to divorce, it can leave you in shock. That can be true even if you had been having problems for a long time. Often, one spouse is ready to take that step, and the other is left to deal with the reality that the marriage is going to end.

The first few days after that can be a mixture of anger, fear, grief and shock. They can often be the most difficult part of the divorce process – at least emotionally.

It’s common for people to jump ahead and start planning how they’ll share custody of the kids, who will keep the house and how their accounts will be divided. That can be especially true if you learn that your spouse is ahead of you in determining what they want in the divorce and in getting legal guidance. However, this is not the time to be making important decisions.

What should you do in the first days?

During the initial days after you learn that divorce is in your future, it’s important to take things one moment at a time. Focus on maintaining your daily routine. Try to continue to eat, sleep and exercise. Do whatever helps you stay as calm as possible. If you already have a therapist, some extra sessions may help.

Be cautious about who you tell. The more people you tell, the more conflicting advice you’ll get at a time when you’re already uncertain and unsettled.

Don’t start negotiating with your spouse. Often, spouses start making demands out of anger, which can set the process off on a bad foot. Sometimes a spouse who feels guilty about cheating or other wrongdoing will promise their spouse they can have anything they want in the divorce. This also isn’t a good starting point.

If your spouse tries to start working out terms, tell them that you aren’t ready to do that until you get a mediator, if you think mediation can work for you, or until you get legal advice – or both. This can help you see things more clearly and objectively and prevent you from doing or saying things you may both regret at the divorce proceeds.

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