Let’s face it, most people do not look forward to sitting their spouse down and telling them they plan to file for divorce. I am frequently asked by clients whether they should tell their spouse of their plans for divorce. While I can understand the desire to avoid a difficult conversation, my answer is almost always a resounding yes.
My philosophy as a divorce attorney is to help people get through their situation and then move on with their lives with as little stress as possible. Blindsiding someone with divorce papers is usually a great way to make sure a divorce starts off extremely litigious. I am a huge advocate for having my client let his or her spouse know what’s coming.
Of course, there are exceptions. If a couple is living together and there are domestic violence concerns, the situation must be handled with extreme caution. The safety of my client and his or her children is always my top priority. In certain situations such as this, I have advised clients to leave the home before the divorce papers arrive, for their own safety or peace of mind. Circumstances involving the fear of the spouse abducting the child(ren) is another is situation that must be handled with caution.
It has been my practice to send a letter to the spouse (if unrepresented by an attorney) prior to the divorce papers being served. This document lays out that I have been retained by his or her spouse to obtain a divorce, but we intend to focus on the issues with no intention of trying to embarrass or belittle the other party. I also let the other party know that he or she is entitled to obtain legal representation. The letter has been very successful in setting a professional tone early in the case. My goal is never to see how nasty a divorce or situation can get.
The bottom line is that in most situations, telling your spouse you want a divorce prior to the divorce papers arriving will help you both begin the process of planning and preparing for life to change.