My Wife Wants to File a Divorce, but I Don’t Want To. Who Do I Ask for Legal Help?

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When a couple enters into a marriage, they’re often so blinded by love that they never think about what would happen if one of them eventually wants a divorce. Because of this, many couples don’t sign a prenuptial agreement prior to their marriage, which means they are starting from square one when they file for divorce.

Sometimes, one spouse wants a divorce and the other doesn’t. There are many possible reasons for this. The spouse that’s still hanging on may still be in love with the other spouse. They may be worried about how they’ll financially cope without the other spouse. If there are children involved, they may be concerned about how a divorce will affect them.

The fact of the matter is that if one spouse wants a divorce, the other spouse can’t force them to stay in the marriage. They can make it more difficult for the divorce to be finalized, but that can create a volatile situation that can be detrimental to both parties and any children involved. If your spouse wants to file for a divorce but you don’t, here are the steps you can take to protect yourself and come to a fair resolution for everyone involved.

Coming to Terms

When a couple separates, there are often feelings of hurt, anger, and fear that immediately arise. Even if the marriage wasn’t a happy one, change can be a scary thing. Knowing that you aren’t alone and that many people have faced the same challenges you are currently facing and have survived can go a long way in easing those worries.

If you think there may be a chance to save your marriage, consider seeing a therapist to help resolve your issues. Therapists that specialize in counseling married couples have many tools that they use to assist couples that are thinking about divorcing. They also provide a safe space where both parties can freely express themselves so that they can tackle the issues in the marriage head-on.

Even if your partner is dead set on filing for divorce, you can still see a therapist on your own to help you cope with the feelings you’re having. They can help you identify where you can improve so that your next relationship has a better chance of surviving. If the thought of divorce has you feeling depressed or anxious, they can also help you work through those struggles so that you are strong enough to withstand the divorce proceedings and the months that come after.

Consider Mediation

Instead of consulting with a lawyer right away, some couples choose to go to a divorce mediator. Divorce mediation is often more cost-effective than using lawyers. It’s usually a more peaceful process as well since it doesn’t require that the couple go to trial.

Divorce mediation is only possible, however, in a no-fault divorce. Most states allow for a no-fault divorce option, which means that one party doesn’t have to prove that the other party caused the divorce due to:

  • adultery.
  • abandonment.
  • extreme cruelty
  • mental illness
  • criminal conviction

In a no-fault divorce, the couple usually sites “irreconcilable differences,” meaning that the couple simply doesn’t get along anymore but that neither party is solely at fault for the demise of the marriage. A divorce mediator assists the spouses in resolving all issues of their separation, including spousal maintenance, child support, child custody, and the division of assets.

Even if you decide to skip mediation and retain a lawyer right away, a judge may still force you to attend mediation prior to going to trial. Family court calendars fill up quickly, so a judge often tries to get the parties to resolve their issues without having to go to court.

Retaining a Lawyer

Whether you’ve decided on a no-fault divorce or one party has decided to file for a fault divorce, seeking the advice of a lawyer is always a reasonable option. Divorce lawyers can help you navigate all aspects of a divorce, including:

  • disclosing assets and liabilities
  • dividing up property
  • distributing marital debt
  • determining spousal maintenance and child support
  • developing a fair parenting plan
  • preparing and filing a separation agreement
  • providing representation in court if the case goes to trial

Cost is often a concern when retaining a lawyer, especially if you are the party that doesn’t want a divorce. There are lower cost options such as contacting the legal aid department in your state. This is a group of lawyers that work pro bono, which means they represent you free of charge.

When seeking a divorce lawyer, ask for recommendations from family and friends that have been through similar situations. Each case is unique, so you want to make sure you’re hiring someone that is well-versed in all aspects of family law. You can also contact your state’s bar association office to find a list of qualified divorce lawyers in your area. Online referral websites are another option when searching for an experienced family law attorney.

Before retaining a lawyer, you’ll have the option of attending an initial consultation. Sometimes the initial consultation is free, but many experienced divorce lawyers charge their hourly fee or a discounted rate. The consultation can be as brief as 15 minutes or as long as an hour, depending on what you’d like to discuss. Most lawyers will ask for a general synopsis of why you’re seeking an end to the marriage and then go over the steps of the divorce process.

This is your chance to interview the lawyer and see if they are the right fit for your case. Some divorces can last years, especially if it’s a contested divorce where child custody is involved. Making sure your lawyer is someone you connect well with and is very responsive will go a long way in making the divorce process smoother.

Divorces are never easy, especially if you weren’t the one initially seeking an end to the marriage. Surrounding yourself with qualified individuals who have your best interest in mind can make everything more manageable.

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