Separate, Reconcile, or Divorce?

Posted on Sep 19, 2022 by Katie Carter

Relationships are complicated. I’m sure you already know that. But it does bear mentioning, in any case, because it gets to the root of what we do here.

Sometimes, it seems as though it doesn’t make any sense, least of all to us, who know one party only a little and the other not at all.

There are not hard and fast rules; these things almost always take their own time, which can mean that one case bears very little resemblance to another. Even in cases where the issues seem pretty similar, the cases themselves can be incredibly dissimilar.

In every single case, one thing that I am convinced of is that the process of separation – including, possibly, the consideration of reconciliation – should take its time. It won’t do to hurry things along; ending a marriage is a big decision. Emotionally, financially, logistically, legally… well, let’s just say that there’s a lot involved.

In an ideal world, the separation would come on its own, seemingly naturally, and the divorce process would intersect with the lives of both of the parties at a time when they’re feeling prepared to deal with it. Of course, that’s not always the case – in some cases, dramatic events speed things along, while in still others one spouse is not of the same mind as the other.

When I write these articles, I’m often thinking of a particular case, and the same can be said of the way I’m feeling today, as I write this one. In the case I’m thinking of, my client came in, all urgency and panic, telling me that she was worried that her husband’s drug and alcohol addiction (not to mention repeated infidelity) meant that she didn’t feel safe. She was worried he was going to hurt her. She had to retain me, and get an agreement drafted, immediately, so that she’d (ideally, we really hadn’t worked through the issue all the way through to its conclusion) be able to relocate with the children.

Her family came in from out of town to help extricate her. He had a run-in with the police, and was ultimately involuntarily committed in a psych ward. She had to go – immediately. She was sure of it. She wanted the agreement drafted right away, she wanted to send it to him, she wanted a divorce, stat.
Actually, on second thought, I think I’ve had several cases with virtually identical fact patterns to this one.

Then, the next time I heard from her, she was telling me she was reconciling with him.

It’s easy to laugh, to roll your eyes, or to make a joke – but, the reality is, this kind of thing is normal. It’s understandable.

Battered women, as you probably already know, are said to attempt to leave 7 times before they’re successful. But I’ve often wondered if the same can be said of most women, when they’re considering leaving their marriages, ending the relationships that resulted in the births of their children. It’s a huge decision. And it’s one that even the most stalwart woman can hem and haw over, sometimes reaching one decision, and then at other times, another.

It’s a difficult decision to make. Separation – or reconciliation? Divorce? What comes next? And how do you make sure that, emotionally, financially, logistically, legally, you have all of the things in place that need to be in place for you to move forward into (what seems now like) an uncertain future?

In an ideal world, both you and your husband would come to a reasonable, rational decision to divorce – or, alternatively, to work to save your marriage, if it’s salvageable – together, without surprise to anyone. You’d work through your feelings, you’d be sure of what you want. You wouldn’t go into it irrationally, emotionally, irascibly. After all, that’s what makes divorces take longer, cost more, and yield poorer results.

It’s not always an ideal world. Sometimes, divorce is thrust upon one party unsuspectingly. Sometimes, there’s real trauma involved – like, that someone has committed adultery, or that there’s been domestic violence. In other cases, it’s a very real financial concern – whether you’ll be able to support yourself, to keep a roof over your head, to make ends meet – that motivates.

Either way you find yourself – anticipating divorce and having worked through your feelings surrounding it, or, alternatively, finding it thrust upon you – it’s important to take the time you need to gather information about the process. Sometimes, there’s not as much time as you might wish to do all the research (if, say, you’ve been served with a divorce complaint and you find that you have 21 days to file a responsive pleading, retain counsel, and have all your ducks in a row prior to a pendente lite hearing), but it’s still going to be important for you to take the time that you do have to familiarize yourself with the process.

You’re not alone. You’re not the only one to have ever experienced this. Regardless of how you’re feeling today, it’s going to be important to do what you need to do to work through it – whether that means that you enlist the support of a therapist, speak to a financial advisor, attend a divorce seminar, request a free divorce book, meet one-on-one with a divorce attorney, or something else.

And, look, if you need to go to marriage counseling, or even reconcile – you should never be ashamed to admit it. These things all run on their own time frame, and it may look a lot like someone else’s case, or nothing at all like it. Maybe you’ll save your marriage. Maybe you’ll separate again, at some point in the future. The point is, though, that it’s you that you are answerable to. Only you know whether your marriage is worth saving, or whether you’ll start to look for your happily ever after post-divorce.

Whether you separate, reconcile, or divorce, it’s entirely up to you. You’re making big decisions about yourself, your future, and the future of your children. It’s not just a factual decision; it’s an emotional one. You should have the information you need – whether in the form of books or seminars – and you should have a chance to ask the questions that are keeping you awake at night.

For more information, or to register for a seminar, give our office a call at 757-425-5200 or visit our website. We’re here to help.