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What to do when you don’t want to get divorced, but your spouse does

We all know that there are some parts of life that are unpleasant. These are things that we can anticipate happening even if we don’t know exactly when they will occur. Events like the passing away of loved ones or the loss of a job are examples that came to my mind immediately. Each of us have some event in our minds that we believe can happen to us but we wish would not. These are the sort of “worst case scenarios” that play in our brains in idle moments. 

One unpleasant occurrence that seems to hit many people by surprise is when you find out that your spouse wants to end your marriage and move towards a divorce. The circumstances for each person going through a divorce may be different, but the surprise that you receive when first finding out about your spouse’s intent to do so is likely pretty similar. A sense of betrayal, shock and anger may be common among anyone who is reading this blog post today. 

There are a range of emotions that you are likely feeling and that is normal. It may even be difficult for you to even think about the subject of getting a divorce. After all- this isn’t a business partnership that is breaking up- it is a marriage, what was supposed to be a lifelong commitment. 

To have a great amount of regret and confusion is normal. A big part of why divorce is so tough can be when the divorce begins at a time when you are not expecting it to. Seeing the writing on the wall, so to speak, for months leading up to your spouse filing for divorce is one thing. It is another thing to be blindsided. 

Divorce means seeing yourself and your spouse differently

I don’t just mean somewhat differently or kinda-sorta differently. I mean that you and your spouse are no longer a pair, a couple, a single unit. Yes, if you have children you will remain a parenting team (ideally). You will become familiar with the phrase, “co-parenting” in relation to parenting a child with someone to whom you are not married. In all other phases of your life you will be a single person. 

This could feel liberating to some but to many other people going through divorce, being single again is a tough transition to make. So much of our identity is tied up in our family and what we have spent huge chunks of our life becoming. If you are married, odds are good that you’ve spent a huge chunk of your life building a family and a relationship with your spouse. Even if that relationship hasn’t always been the best you still have put forth some effort to make it better. 

To now be sitting across a negotiation table (metaphorically) from your spouse in an attempt to divide up your life into separate piles can be jarring. If you cannot settle your case, you will likely find yourself in a position where you will be in a courtroom arguing about your life in front a judge that doesn’t know you and doesn’t know your spouse. That stranger (the judge) will be tasked with dividing up every aspect of your married life- your kids, your bills, your property, your business, your debts, etc. This alone frustrates and even angers many spouses who are unwilling participants in the divorce. 

Ultimately a divorce becomes a business transaction to everyone but you and your spouse. Your attorney may even counsel you to begin to look at the case like this in an attempt to remove emotion from your thought processes. However, you and I both know that it would be impossible to remove all emotion from a divorce. What you are feeling now cannot be pushed to the side and ignored. Facing off against your spouse in a divorce hearing or trial is about the last thing you ever saw yourself doing, but it is a distinct possibility nonetheless. 

It takes more muscle to work on a marriage than to let it fail 

We’ve all heard the little saying about smiles and frowns- that it takes more muscles to frown to smile. This small observation is pretty accurate when applied to a bigger picture issue like divorce. It is easier to file for divorce, or to let a marriage fail, than to work on the marriage and to try to prevent the divorce from occurring.

 It is easy to find a judge, pastor, priest or any other person who can marry a couple of people and have him or her say the magic words and marry you and your spouse. Likewise, it is easy to file some paperwork with the court asking to get a divorce. The difficult part is in the middle- attempting to make the marriage work and then doing everything you can to save a failing marriage. 

All it takes is one spouse to want a divorce to happen. That spouse doesn’t need to tell you that he or she is going to file for divorce from you. By the same token, there doesn’t have to be a reason why he or she wants a divorce. Texas is a no fault divorce state, meaning that your spouse doesn’t have to tell the court any specific reason why the divorce is being sought. No fault grounds have to be asserted in the divorce petition for it to move forward. 

The bottom line is that all it takes is for you or your spouse to want to get divorced for the divorce to occur. Sure, some paperwork has to be filed with the court and some lawyers probably have to be hired. But if you want the divorce you will get a divorce. Marriage is tougher- both you and your spouse have to want to remain in the marriage. It takes two to tango, as they say. 

No chance at healing or repairing the marriage

Nobody can make you or your spouse remain married. You can delay the inevitable, but the inevitable will occur (or else it wouldn’t be inevitable). If you cannot be expected to reconcile with your spouse then this is really the only thing that you need to assert in your divorce petition. Living together as a married couple has become impossible. If you have already been served with divorce papers you can look at the first couple pages of the divorce petition and see this language for yourself. 

It takes a couple months (at least) to get divorced

Your spouse cannot file the divorce, serve you with the paperwork and then negotiate a divorce with you in a week’s time. Well, let me be a little more clear about that. All of this can happen in a week’s time but you cannot become legally divorced from your spouse until sixty days have passed since the time your spouse filed the divorce petition. Until then, you are given a cooling off period to make sure that the divorce is what your spouse wants to happen. Again, you can voice your unwillingness for the divorce to occur but until your spouse agrees a divorce is what happens at the end of your case. 

The other thing that you have to keep in mind is that you and your spouse have to agree on every issue in your divorce in order to settle your case. You can’t just agree on most things and have a general plan in place. The final decree of divorce must be specific as to how time with your children will be divided, how your retirement accounts will be divided, what rights and duties you and your spouse will have in relation to your child, etc. For this reason alone it can take a great deal of time to actually get divorced.

If you were wondering, if have had very few cases where the spouses reconcile during this sixty day period. That’s not to say that it never happens, however. I can think of a handful of cases where our client and their spouse reconciled during the divorce and then attempted to make the marriage work. I wouldn’t bet on it happening in your case just because it is so rare. Hopefully it does, if that is what you want, but the likelihood isn’t that great. 

Can you delay a divorce?

Sure, you can go through a divorce as slowly as possible in hopes of reaching a point where your spouse comes back to you. I can’t say that this is a wise decision or anything that I would ever recommend to a client, however. Here’s why. 

First and foremost it isn’t likely to work. I have worked with many spouses who have gone through divorce cases and have never seen this work. It’s never worked for one of our clients because it isn’t the right thing to do (more on that later). I’ve never seen an opposing client who did not want the divorce have my client turn around on their decision to get a divorce as a result of delays. Don’t try this at home- for no other reason than it will not work. 

The other reason why I don’t recommend it is because it is unethical to do. For you to have to spend money on a lawyer can be bad enough, not to mention having to pay a lawyer to simple twiddle their thumbs and delay, delay your case. From your attorney’s perspective, delaying a case without cause is against our code of professional conduct and result in disciplinary measures being taken against him or her. This is serious stuff. 

Here is the other consideration that you need to make. If you are having to borrow money to pay for your lawyer, are relying on family to pay for the lawyer or are draining your savings to do so consider that you will be paying your lawyer to do nothing in your case. I would never recommend that you pay a lawyer to do nothing. That money could be better spent in about a million other ways. When your children are getting ready for college and you have no savings because you spent a couple extra thousand dollars delaying your divorce you will have nobody to blame but yourself. 

Then you need to consider that our court systems are overburdened with cases as they are. To take up the court’s time with a case that should be over with in a relatively short amount of time is doing a disservice to our justice system, your fellow tax payers and most of all yourself. Don’t look at a delay as a means to your spouse to come to their senses. It is extremely unlikely to work, is unethical and can result in your being disciplined (along with your attorney) by the judge in your case. 

Most importantly: the divorce will not go away on its own

Anyone who faced an unpleasant circumstance will know exactly what I mean when I say that your divorce is not going to take care of itself or go away on its own. When we have a work task that we don’t want to do it is naturally to take that item and put it at the bottom of our to-do list. It could happen that the situation sorts itself out at work and we don’t have to make that call we are dreading. Or, a co-worker may end doing the job for you. In life, sometimes the things we dread doing never actually make it us.

A divorce is not one of those things. Your divorce will go on- with or without you. You can and should choose to participate in the case. Think of the case like an airplane. You need to be on that airplane- whether you like the destination or not. The plane can and will take off without you and you may not like what happens on the plane or at the destination if you are not there to speak up for yourself. You spouse can work out the terms of the divorce without your input if you fail to respond to being served with divorce papers. That just makes a bad situation even worse.

Questions about divorce in Texas? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

Divorce is not easy, but the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan pride ourselves on giving our clients the highest quality representation possible. Contact our office today for a free of charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys. These consultations allow you to ask questions and receive direct feedback from a lawyer who has represented many people just like you who are going through a difficult divorce. 

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