What to Do Before Telling Your Spouse You Want a Divorce

what to do before telling your spouse you want a divorcee

By Patricia Van Haren, Divorce Attorney, Founder, The Law Office of Patricia C. Van Haren

The idea of taking the major step of divorce can be scary, intimidating and stressful. It’s hard to know where to start. But let’s start with your spouse. The thought of telling your spouse you want a divorce is incredibly difficult — especially if you know your spouse doesn’t want a divorce. This article will provide compassionate guidance, and offer tips on what to do before telling your spouse you want a divorce.


Understand Your Own Goals and Wishes Before telling your spouse you want a divorce

When you have a better understanding of yourself, it makes it easier to communicate your feelings and needs in an effective way. Additionally, taking the time to reflect on your own goals and wishes helps you create space for self-growth and development. You may be surprised at how much clarity comes from reviewing your values and desires in a more focused manner, which can also help foster an open dialogue between partners so both feel respected and heard.

One of the most important discussions that you will need to have is the type of process that you want to use for divorce.  It is important to educate yourself first about all your options and consider the pros and cons of each one.  If you wish to get divorced through  mediation or the collaborative divorce process, it may be beneficial to have talking points on why you want to stay out of court.

Having these conversations with your partner can be difficult if one or both parties are unsure of what they want or need from the relationship or if one partner does not want to get divorced. Taking some time beforehand will ensure that any discussions are productive and meaningful, instead of leading to conflict or confusion later down the road.

If you and your spouse have children, you will be involved in each other’s lives after the divorce is final. If you have the difficult conversations and work towards understanding each other’s perspective you can build a strong co-parenting relationship based on trust and mutual respect – something that is invaluable in any successful partnership! Even though the marriage is over, the family can still remain.


Take Time to Reflect on What Matters Most in the Divorce Process

Divorce is an incredibly difficult process and it can be easy to get buried in the details of it all. However, it is important to take time during the process to allow oneself to reflect on what truly matters most. Doing this can give clarity and perspective on the situation, which can help one make decisions that are best for their wellbeing.

When taking time to pause and reflect during a divorce, it may be helpful to think about what emotions come up when thinking about the divorce and how these feelings guide decisions. Ask yourself questions such as “What do I want out of this divorce?” or “What do I need emotionally right now?” or “What type of life do I imagine for my children at the end of this?” Taking a step back from all of the legal paperwork, finances, and other factors related to the divorce will allow you to assess what really matters most in your life at this moment.

This reflection time can also be beneficial for looking towards the future. What are the goals for post-divorce life? What does one hope for in terms of relationships with family and friends? Most importantly, how does one want to feel after completing the divorce process: empowered, relieved, content? Taking this time for reflection allows one to move forward with positivity as they plan ahead for their future. If you have children with your spouse, you want to find a way through the process that allows for your children to have both parents in their life.  Working with a therapist or a divorce coach before you file for divorce can provide you with clarity and allow you to move forward in a way that is least damaging to your family.

Overall, pausing during a divorce process is essential as it provides an opportunity for personal reflection on what is most important in life. This will provide an understanding of how best to proceed with decisions related to the divorce while keeping personal needs at the forefront of one’s mind.

Tips and Strategies for Preparing Ahead of Time

Preparing ahead of time is an important step in eliminating the fear and stress of telling your spouse that you want to divorce. It can help you make sure that you are ready for whatever issues occur in the initial conversation and issues that may arise during the process.  When you are educated and prepared, you are able to handle any challenge or task with confidence. One of the best ways to ensure that you are prepared is by taking the time to create a plan. This plan should include specific steps that you need to take before you file for divorce and also during the process. It should also list out the resources and materials that you will need, such as opening an individual credit card and financial account, securing a place to live if you will be the one moving and what process you will be using for your divorce.

There are many options for a divorce today.  You want to be prepared on who you will need on your divorce team and get that team in place early in the divorce process.  Educate yourself on what documents that you should gather before you begin the divorce process.

In addition, it is also important to think ahead and anticipate potential problems or issues. By anticipating issues before they arise, you can be prepared and have solutions ready at hand if something does go wrong. This can save a lot of time and effort down the line. If you know that your spouse if volatile, you may wish to have a place to stay on the first night that you discuss the divorce or you may choose to discuss the divorce in a therapy session.  If you have children, you may wish to have them stay with friends when you are having the conversations.

If your marriage was filled with Domestic Violence, then you may need to seek out litigation counsel and be prepared to file a restraining order at the same time that you are filing for divorce.

Finally, another great tip for preparing ahead of time is to practice or rehearse tasks or activities before actually performing them. This could be anything from practicing how to answer an interview question ahead of time, to rehearsing a presentation several times before delivering it in front of an audience. Practicing has been proven to boost confidence and give individuals more assurance when it comes time for them to perform the actual task itself. You may want to sit down with your therapist or your divorce coach so that you can practice how to tell your spouse about the divorce and how to respond to any potential reactions from your spouse.



As we can see, there are many advantages to preparing ahead of time – it allows us to plan out our actions in advance; anticipate potential problems; and practice what we will do in various situations so we are more confident when it comes time for us actually do something. Taking the time to properly prepare ourselves gives us a greater chance at getting through the divorce process with the minimal amount of stress and fear.

Engage in Self-Care and Compassionate Communication

Self-care and compassionate communication are two essential tools that can help us manage the stress and uncertainty of divorce. Self-care is an important part of developing resilience and getting through difficult times. It not only helps us to manage our own emotions, but it also builds a foundation for empathy and connection with others. Self-care includes physical activities like exercise, emotional activities such as journaling or creative outlets, and social activities like spending time with friends or connecting with family. All of these activities help us to maintain our mental health and wellbeing. When you take care of yourself, you will build back the resources that you will need to care for your children during your parenting time.  It will also ease some of the initial loneliness and depression that can occur during the divorce process.

Compassionate communication is also critical during a sensitive time. This means practicing active listening, being open to understanding different perspectives, asking questions to get more information, using “I” statements instead of accusations, expressing emotion without blaming or shaming others, setting boundaries without threatening or attacking others, acknowledging other people’s feelings without getting defensive, and learning from mistakes without judgment. By engaging in compassionate communication we create an atmosphere where everyone feels heard and respected while remaining open to learning from each other’s experiences.

This is particularly beneficial if you have children as you will need to continue to work with your spouse in raising your children after the divorce has been completed. If you are choosing mediation or the collaborative process learning compassionate communication will assist you in getting through the process and coming to the agreements that need to be made to complete your divorce.

In conclusion, encouraging self-care and compassionate communication during a divorce can help  manage the stress and uncertainty that come along with divorce. Not only do these practices help develop resilience but they also open the door for genuine connection with those around us, particularly your children and your co-parent. Taking care of ourselves and communicating with compassion is essential in order to navigate difficult times while maintaining our mental health and wellbeing. If you are struggling with this, a therapist or divorce coach can help you to be able to develop these skills.


If you are considering divorce, it is so important to be clear about your intentions and wishes before having any conversations with your partner. It is imperative that you have educated yourself about Divorce and have sound reasons for the process that you would like to choose so that you can move forward with peace. Once you better understand what you want out of the divorce process, it can be much easier to have difficult but necessary conversations with your spouse.

Throughout the decision-making process, make sure to check in with yourself and reflect on what matters most. Be patient with yourself and others involved, communicate openly and honestly, and give yourself grace throughout this experience. Know and understand that there are options for Divorce without Destruction.  It is important to remember that the divorce process is temporary, but your family is forever.


Family Law Attorney, Patricia C. Van Haren has been a practicing attorney since 2011. Prior to attending law school, Patricia was a family law paralegal for approximately 20 years. In that time she acted as a Paralegal for several attorneys. For several years before becoming an attorney, she assisted couples through uncontested divorces as a paralegal and document preparation assistance. After establishing her own practice, she used all of her skills and knowledge to develop her family law, estate planning and wealth management practice.

Ms. Van Haren raised her three children as a single mother while working and attending law school at nights and on weekends. As a single parent and a person who has gone through a Divorce in her past, Ms. Van Haren understands how the divorce process can impact the future of the family. Ms. Van Haren believes that where possible issues can be settled outside of the Courtroom even in the most contentious cases.

She works with her clients to advocate for them and to be able to strategize and choose which issues are appropriate for litigation and which issues are appropriate for settlement. Ms. Van Haren handles divorces, paternity and custody matters, guardianship, and conservatorship matters through mediation and collaborative law. She has offices in Torrance and Irvine and handles cases throughout Southern, Central Los Angeles County and all of Orange County. To learn more, visit her website.


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