Some marriages have been over for years before the Mrs. sets foot in our office. Others—well, let’s just say they’re a little more up in the air. Some women come in just wanting a little more information about what might happen if things start heading towards divorce. Others try marriage counseling first, and only come to see me after they’ve become completely convinced that their marriages can’t be saved.
As a child, I always loved to read the “Can this marriage be saved?” feature article in my mom’s Ladies Home Journal magazines. It described a real life married couple, told the story according to each spouse’s perspective, and then let a marriage counselor weigh in. Spoiler alert: the marriages were always, always saved, even after terrible things had happened, like the death of a child or an affair. Anyway, I loved them, and, whenever my mom got the magazine, I always flipped to that article first.
Real life marriages and divorces are a little more complicated than the “Can this marriage be saved?” articles would have had me believe, though. There are plenty of good people who make it work, and just as many who ultimately decide that whatever has happened is a deal breaker. Wherever you fall within that spectrum, and especially if you aren’t sure yet where you fall, there are protections in place for you.
When it comes to divorce, there’s really no such thing as opening Pandora’s Box.
You can decide to reconcile at any time. Or not reconcile.
Whether your divorce is contested or uncontested, you can reconcile at any time. If a divorce has been filed with the court, we may have to file a plea of reconciliation with the court in order to stop the proceedings (especially if you’ve got a trial date set or something), but that really isn’t a big deal. Up until entry of the final decree of divorce, you and your husband can reconcile.
And, even after the final decree of divorce is entered, if you decide to get back together, there’s nothing stopping you. I’ve had plenty of cases where people who previously divorced got back together and remarried. I’ve even heard of one couple who got married again for the third time—so, really, there’s nothing done you can’t undo later, if necessary.
Separation agreements include reconciliation provisions.
If your divorce isn’t contested, you’ve been negotiating a separation agreement. Whether you’re still in the process of negotiating, or whether you’ve already got a signed agreement in place, you’re not stuck.
Obviously, if you haven’t reached an agreement yet, you’re fine to just stop negotiating. You can reconcile at any time, without any real penalty. (Though it may interest you to know that, if one of you has committed adultery, by sleeping with the other, you legally forgive the transgression.) Usually, reconciliation provisions are included that say that if the parties reconcile, the agreement survives. So, essentially, that means that, although you might reconcile today, if you were to separate later on down the line, the agreement would again control your separation. It’s nice because it protects you, just in case you reconcile and things don’t work out. If things do work out, you can ignore your agreement (because, after all, no agreement has more power than the parties give it) or, alternatively, you can usually sign something officially revoking the agreement.
Do we need to try marriage counseling?
That’s entirely your choice. Some couples swear by marriage counseling; other couples think it’s hokey. As a general rule, I think it’ll only be as successful as you let it be, so if it means something to you, by all means, try it. If, though, you’re uncomfortable and don’t want to really give it a good try, you’ll probably find that it doesn’t work that well for you.
If we’re in marriage counseling, are we separated?
I think it’s safe to say, though, that while you’re in marriage counseling, you haven’t yet separated. In Virginia, you are separated when one party forms the intent to leaves the marriage, and then stops cohabitating. Cohabitation is a fancy legal word we use to describe living together as husband and wife. If you’re separated, you’re NOT living together as husband and wife—which probably also means that you’re not trying to save your marriage by going to marriage counseling.
If there’s something telling you that your marriage just isn’t over, there’s certainly nothing wrong with listening to that voice. If, though, you try to reconcile and it just doesn’t work, you shouldn’t beat yourself up about that, either. It happens. At the end of the day, I think the most important thing is knowing that you did everything you could, and you only left when you knew that there were no other alternatives. Obviously, because you’re here reading this article today, you’re thinking long and hard about your marriage and it’s viability over the long term.
There’s nothing wrong with getting the information that you need to help you make that choice. That information comes from all sorts of places—marriage counselors or other therapists, financial professionals, religious officials, and lawyers, among others.
If you’re looking for information to start the divorce process, that doesn’t mean you’re divorcing. It just means that you like to make informed decisions, and that’s a good thing. And, in fact, you’re in the perfect place to start.
First thing’s first: Request a copy of our free divorce book.
We have a version for military service members, and another for everyone else. It covers all the basics of what you’ll need to know, including the documents you’ll need, how to live separate under the same roof, and what questions to ask a divorce lawyer. It, of course, also covers the basics of the divorce process, just so that you can begin to understand what choices you’ll have to make and how things might work out.
Second, attend a divorce seminar.
I know, I know. It probably sounds awful. But, really, our divorce seminars are awesome, because they’re cheap ($40 if you pre-register, and $50 at the door) and feature one of our experienced licensed Virginia divorce and custody attorneys. In fact, it’s the quickest, easiest way to get a couple questions answered before you decide whether you want to go see a marriage counselor, have an initial consultation with an attorney, or make any other big decisions. Our divorce seminars have been teaching Virginia women about divorce for over 20 years now, and we get rave reviews. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
Reconciliation happens. It also sometimes doesn’t happen. Either way, though, it’s important to take the time to gather the information you need to make the types of decisions you’ll need to make in your case. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, get a copy of our book, or get more information about one of our upcoming divorce seminars, give our office a call at (757) 425-5200.