What If I Don’t Want a Divorce?

You’ve tried everything to save your marriage. You discussed your differences, attended marriage counseling, and even tried a trial separation, but your spouse no longer wants to explore other options. They want a divorce. Even if it’s not what you want, it only takes one person to end a marriage and, unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about that. We understand this is painful and difficult to accept, particularly if you haven’t had sufficient time to process your feelings of anger, sadness, grief, or regret.

Since you don’t want a divorce, it’s understandable you may want to slow the process and hope things work out. But this delay can hurt you in the long run, especially if you stall the process until litigation becomes your only remaining option. It’s in your best interest, and in the interest of your family if you have children, to seek advice of counsel — the sooner the better. As difficult as it may be, participating in the divorce process from the beginning will help you maintain as much control as possible over your situation and set you up for a better future.

Mediation vs. Litigation

Though a common misconception, it’s untrue that one party can stop a divorce by not responding to legal notices or refusing to retain an attorney or professional mediator. In fact, it could actually put you at greater risk. Skipping court hearings, missing legal deadlines, or ignoring other divorce proceedings may give your spouse the option to seek a default divorce, which means it proceeds without your input. In this case, you are forfeiting your chance to protect your interests, including equitably dividing property and finances, determining child custody and other parenting rights. Stalling tactics could also establish a confrontational tone with your spouse that colors the entire process and could lead to a less favorable outcome for you. But there is a better way: mediation. Compared with going to court, mediation costs less, often requires less time, and can be less risky. When you litigate, you put your future in the hands of a judge who will hand down a ruling you will be required to follow. This puts you and your family in a possibly vulnerable position. Unlike working with a professional mediator who understands your situation and your needs, a judge is a stranger tasked with making a swift decision based only on the information provided to them. In addition, the uncertainty involved with going to court or trial can also increase your stress and emotional trauma. Active participation in your divorce proceedings is critical to mitigating such risks. Working with a professional mediator and your attorney is an effective way to avoid trial and reach a better settlement. Mediation lets you safely express your needs and concerns, gain a better understanding of the divorce process and your legal options, and guide you to decisions that are in the long-term best interest of you and your family. Mediation can also create a more civil process overall. Since emotions may be running high, it can help to have a buffer between you and your spouse so you can focus on ways to communicate effectively, reach a conclusion, and close this difficult chapter of your life.

Tips for Coping During a Divorce

For your own mental and emotional health, you need to accept the reality of your divorce so you can begin building a new life. Of course, that’s much easier said than done. This acceptance is difficult, so allow yourself time to grieve your loss while also working on envisioning a new future for yourself. You are experiencing a crisis, so having trusted loved ones to talk with is essential. Lean on close friends and family and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You may also want to join a support group where you can process your feelings, and even vent, in a safe and healthy environment. And if you have children, continuing to focus on their wellbeing can help you maintain perspective and make sound, family-focused decisions. As you get through your proceedings, take time to assess your life and discover what you want and need going forward. Though you may be mired in an excruciating divorce process now, find comfort in knowing it has an end date and focus on getting to that point. Most of all, be kind and patient with yourself to ensure you are in the best position to heal and make a fresh start.
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