Telling family and friends that you’re getting a divorce

It’s hard to explain to family and friends that your marriage is over. Probably, even though they may have seen some of the less attractive sides of your relationship, you’ve still gone above and beyond NOT to let them see him in a terrible light. Probably, in many ways, they’ve accepted him as one of their own, and rely on him for things that they would be loathe to give up.

I had a client one time whose husband was her dad’s doctor. For another client, her husband managed her parent’s financial affairs. In yet another case, the dad and the husband were buddies who constantly golfed together.

It’s hard to even scratch the surface of all that you and your husband have meant to your extended family, and harder still to imagine telling the people you love the most in the world that you want to remove your husband from that inner circle. For many women, the fear of these changes – and how their family will react – is strong. It can be crippling, even.

There are so many concerns when it comes to divorce, aren’t there? While I’ve seen plenty of families who are unsupportive of this change (even going so far as to continue to invite the ex husband to family gatherings, despite my client’s discomfort), there are plenty of other families who band together and provide the necessary support.

It’s not easy to talk about divorce, but sooner or later you’re going to have to let your family in on what’s going on. After all, in order to be separated in Virginia, you have to (1) form the intention to live the marriage, and (2) stop cohabitating. Cohabitation includes all sorts of things, both related to how you live inside of the home and outside of it. Part of that means representing to family and friends that you guys are separate, and intend to leave the marriage. Part of that means having at least one corroborating witness, someone who can come to court (or sign an affidavit, if you’re proceeding with a divorce by affidavit) and testify that you and your husband have been separated for the statutory period.

It’s uncomfortable to “air your dirty laundry,” but, in Virginia at least, it’s also important. I know, I know – it’s not easy.

In many cases, just because the marriage is over doesn’t mean that hubby is a bad guy. He’s not right for you, and you’re not happy in the marriage, and it’s ultimately better if it’s over – but he’s not a horrible monster of a human being. (In other cases, he is.) And your family let him into the fold, so it’s hard to imagine cutting him back out again.

I’m not a therapist, I’m a divorce attorney. So, obviously, I’m not entirely sure what advice a therapist would give you under these circumstances, but I think that if you’re having trouble establishing boundaries or talking to your family about how things will be different moving forward, it’s not a bad idea to talk to one about it. This is big, heavy, important stuff, and if you’re feeling ill equipped to handle it on your own, that’s not entirely surprising. It’s hard!

And also, there are no rules. If your husband is your dad’s doctor, especially if he’s suffering from some kind of condition that your husband is uniquely positioned to treat, there’s no reason your dad HAS to terminate that relationship. But, then again, maybe he does. It’s a good idea to stay open minded, consider alternative possibilities, and have honest discussions with your family about what you’re comfortable with moving forward.

Plenty of families decide to keep joint family holidays, even after divorce, so there’s nothing that says that you guys have to do things separate now and that’s just the way it is. Unless you want to, in which case, you should be able to discuss this with your family, after a time, and figure out a way moving forward.

A couple words of encouragement, though, as you work towards your new normal… Keep in mind that there’s no right way or wrong way to do this. For as many divorces as we have that go to court and turn into nasty, knock-down, drag out fights, we probably have fifty that settle quietly, and the parties go on their merry little way. In many, many cases, there’s little fanfare, and the parties just reach an agreement, often very respectfully, and then divvy up the assets and liabilities between themselves. In a few cases, we even have specific provisions that do things like create nesting arrangements (where parents rotate in and out of a house that they maintain for the children’s benefit, and where the children live full time).

I think the main thing is not to make decisions out of fear, especially in the beginning. It always seems so big and daunting in the beginning, when, really, it’s entirely possible to resolve a divorce without hurling insults across a crowded courtroom. In fact, though that certainly happens, those are the more rare cases. (They’re also the more entertaining for the casual spectator, which is why you see them on divorce court TV shows and movies.) You hear about the bad cases, not the good ones.

Get as much information as you can, too. That’s always important. Consider attending our monthly divorce seminar or request a copy of one of our free books and/or reports to help you as you begin to gather information. It’s important to understand what the law is before you panic about what a divorce means. And keep in mind that you and your soon-to-be ex husband can make your own rules, whatever that means for you.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed and experienced Virginia divorce and custody attorneys, give our office a call at 757-425-5200. We’re here to help.

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