What to do when your spouse asks for a divorce

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“My partner wants a divorce, what should I do?”. If your partner has asked you for a divorce, you’re probably wondering where you should go from here.

Even if you knew that things hadn’t been right between the two of you for a while, hearing the words “I want a divorce” can feel like a punch to the gut.

When a marriage comes to an end, it signifies a new chapter for both people. In some divorce cases, both parties are ready for change, but things can be harder when one person is not yet ready to let go.

For two people to get divorced, they must confirm that their marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’. That means that they must be sure that their romantic relationship has reached the end of the road before they go ahead with the divorce.

There are many reasons why couples end up seeking a divorce, often they have simply fallen out of love or drifted apart and become emotionally or physically disconnected from each other. Sometimes there are more serious reasons behind a divorce, like an infidelity, violence, abuse, or addiction.

Depending on the reasons behind one person wanting a divorce, it may still be possible for a couple to work out their problems and get their marriage back on track, but not always.

If your spouse has asked for a divorce, you’re probably wondering what to do next.

Here at Freeman Jones Solicitors, our team of divorce solicitors regularly get asked “what should I do if my husband wants a divorce?” or “my wife wants a divorce, and I don’t know what to do.” If you’re in this position, then this article provides advice on what steps you can take next.

What should I do if my wife wants a divorce?

If your spouse has told you that they want a divorce, your next steps depend on your feelings and circumstances.

The three main factors that will affect what you do next are:

  • Why your spouse wants a divorce.
  • Whether you also want a divorce.
  • Whether you are both willing to try to fix your marriage.

Sometimes, one partner wanting a divorce comes as a complete bombshell to the other, but often it is something that both people have seen coming for some time.

No matter how you feel, the best thing you can do at this point is to try to keep calm and collect your thoughts and feelings. Whilst it’s easier said than done when faced with a potentially life-altering situation, getting into a panic, or becoming overly emotional will not help anybody or anything.

Looking at the context in which your partner told you they want a divorce can be a good gauge as to how much thought they have given their statement and whether they really mean it. If they blurted it out during an emotional outburst or argument, then there is a better chance of it being an off-the-cuff comment said out of frustration or to hurt you. If they sat you down for a serious discussion, then it is more likely to be something they’ve given a lot of thought to.

Of course, the only way of really knowing what is going on in their head is to sit down and have an open and honest conversation together.

It may be that there is still hope that your marriage can be saved if significant changes are made to your lifestyle, actions, or attitudes toward each other. However, if the relationship has become unhealthy or abusive then it may have already been proven that it’s time to part ways.

What to do if your wife wants to divorce and you don’t

If you believe your marriage could be saved, it’s important to stay calm and keep a level head until you’ve sat down together and had a conversation.

If your wife is open to trying to repair your relationship

It’s important to keep communication channels between the two of you open. If your partner is communicative and open to trying to fix or improve your relationship, then things could improve so try not to lose hope. Here at Freeman Jones Solicitors, we often see people regretting asking for a divorce or changing their minds after moving out or having some time to think things through. However, you should also remain realistic and prepare yourself for if things cannot be fixed.

If you are both open to trying to fix your relationship then it is likely to take a lot of time and effort on both sides, so you must both be committed to giving things a good go.

Here are a few tips about how to act and what to do if your partner is contemplating divorce but you want to make things work.

Try to keep your emotions in check

It is difficult to have a meaningful or useful conversation with someone when you’re feeling overly emotional. If you’re going to convince your partner that your marriage could still work, then you need to take a deep breath, keep your emotions in check, and retain a level head. This will help you to think straight and express yourself clearer and more rationally.

Communicate openly

Now is the time to be completely open and honest with each other. If you’re not open with each other it will make it very difficult to work through your problems effectively.

Give each other space

If you’re feeling very anxious about losing your partner then it can be tempting to crowd them, ask excessive questions about how they’re feeling, shower them with attention, or nag them about where they are or who they’re with. Bothering your partner in this way is only likely to push them further away. It can be useful to give each other some time and space to process feelings and think about what you each want and your next steps.

Have a plan or strategy

Once you’ve had a conversation with your partner, come up with a few simple steps you can both make to try to improve your relationship. Try to make them specific and easily actionable rather than vague to make it easier to achieve them.

Concentrate on your own behaviour and actions

Rather than constantly looking at your partner to see if they’re holding up their end of the bargain, try to concentrate on improving your own actions.

Make time for each other

Make sure you are scheduling regular, relaxed time with each other where you can communicate calmly and try to begin building your relationship. This could be one night a week where you have a “date night” or simply making sure you eat at home together most mornings or evenings.

If your partner is adamant that it’s over

If your partner is adamant that it’s the end of the road, then you need to keep a clear head so that you can deal with all the life changes ahead.

Here are a few steps you can take to prepare yourself if your partner isn’t open to communicating or trying to improve your relationship:

Start making plans for your future

If you thought you were going to spend the rest of your life with your partner, then trying to imagine a future without them can be scary and upsetting. It will feel particularly scary to begin with when it is a complete unknown, so spend a bit of time thinking about what you would like your future to look like and start making plans.

Sort out your finances

Splitting up assets and debts during a divorce can be very complicated, so make sure you’ve got a record of all assets you own. Depending on how complex your joint finances are, you may need to organise professional help from a solicitor or mediator to ensure that you reach a fair financial settlement.

Practice self-care

This is a difficult time that you’re going through and it’s important to be gentle with yourself and leave time for self-care to look after both your emotional and physical health. Whether you’re feeling a lot of sadness, anger, or fear, part of your self-care should involve finding a healthy emotional outlet to help to look after your mental health. This could involve a calming exercise like meditation, mindfulness, or yoga, or something more physical like running or playing a sport. Whatever activity helps you to feel calm and relaxed, make time for it.

What not to do if my partner wants a divorce

Being told by your partner that they would like a divorce is likely to cause some pretty big emotions. It is easy to speak and act in ways that we wouldn’t usually when our emotions are heightened or when we’re feeling very angry, scared, or confused, so it’s important to try your best to keep a level head, especially if you would like a shot at repairing your marriage. Even if you want a divorce too, it’s wise to try to keep things as amicable (or at least civil) as possible to make the process as simple and stress-free as possible.

Any of the following behaviours will only cause you and your spouse more emotional turmoil and stress, making a difficult time more unpleasant than it needs to be, so are best avoided.

  • Begging

  • Self-destructive behaviour

  • Gossiping or spreading rumours

  • Spying on your partner

  • Attention-seeking

  • Being manipulative

  • Harassing or nagging your partner

Most of these behaviours can be triggered by not having your emotions under control and will only serve to push your partner further away and confirm to them that a divorce is the right decision.

What are my options if my partner files for divorce?

If your partner has already applied for a divorce, then you should assume that at this point they are quite certain that divorce is the right outcome for them.

The divorce process is not fast and usually takes about 6 months, leaving both partners plenty of time to think things through and decide if this is definitely what they want.

Once the court has received the application, you will be sent a ‘notice of proceedings’ and an ‘acknowledgement of service’ form. The notice of proceedings is for you to keep, and the ‘acknowledgement of service’ form is for you to complete and send back to confirm that you have received the notification. You have 14 days in which to respond.

If you do not agree with the divorce, it is down to you and your partner to communicate with each other and try to work things out.

You can only dispute the divorce if you have a legal reason to do so, you cannot dispute it simply because you don’t want to get divorced.

If you do not respond to the notice of proceedings within 14 days then the court may arrange to have the papers hand-delivered to you to prove that you have received them, a service which you may then be required to then pay for.

How our divorce solicitors can help you

Here at Freeman Jones Solicitors, we have a team of specialist divorce lawyers who provide legal advice and services to clients from in and around Chester who are going through a divorce.

When you choose Freeman Jones Solicitors to help you through your divorce you will receive:

  • A free 30-minute initial consultation.
  • Straightforward, competitive prices with no hidden costs.
  • Solicitors with a proven track record of success in divorce cases.
  • A consistently high standard of service.

Our team of divorce solicitors aim to provide you with straightforward legal advice and help you to achieve the best financial outcome from your divorce.

For more information about our services, or to book a free 30-minute consultation, give our team a call on 01244 506 444.

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Author Colin Freeman View Profile
Colin qualified as a solicitor in 1998. He specialises predominantly in family law, litigation / dispute resolution, wills, probate and settlement agreements and has notable cases reported in the Court of Appeal and High Court.
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