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Should you separate first before divorce?

Has the pandemic caused some problems for you and your spouse in terms of your marriage? Many people who have suffered through stress, sickness, and possibly even death during this pandemic have seen many areas of their lives turn upside down. It may be hard to remember before March of 2020, but at that time the economy was rolling along, unemployment was low and households were doing relatively well in terms of their finances compared to previous times. Earth then, when the pandemic washed up on the shore everything was turned sideways and the world became a very different place. Z we are still observing those changes to this day even as we begin to crawl towards normalcy.

From the beginning of the pandemic, it was speculated that relational problems brought about by the pandemic, job loss and the stay-at-home orders would eventually lead to an increase in divorce filings. You can go through our blog and see what our thoughts were on that subject throughout this pandemic. Performing a simple Internet search on divorce rates during the pandemic will likely yield mixed results. I have seen articles showing that divorces have increased in the country and around the world and I have seen articles from new sources indicating that divorce rates have not increased at least to the extent that they were predicted to. 

However, you want to analyze the data or view this subject I think there are elements of this pandemic that made life for many people extremely difficult. The interesting thing about marriage is that, as a relationship, it is impacted by literally every single area of our lives. We have work relationships but those relationships only matter during business hours. We have friends but those relationships take on added importance only when we are interacting with that person your spouse is someone who should be on your mind constantly and is someone who feels the Upson downs of every area in both of your lives. 

With that said, if you lost your job and your income was greatly reduced as a result then the stress is brought about by financial problems likely has touched your marriage. If you find yourself in a position where both you and your spouse lost your jobs then these financial issues were probably felt even more acutely. Being able to pay your mortgage and set money aside for savings are two common goals that most married people share. The loss of your income or a significant reduction in your income likely led to some degree of financial concern in worry in your household. Worry leads to stress and stress leads to relational problems. I don't think you have to be a marriage or family therapist to figure that one out. 

Think about these factors before moving forward with the divorce

To be sure, the decision to move forward with the doors is one of the most impactful upon your life and that of your family for now and generations to come. When you consider the day-to-day changes as well as the long-term impacts of deciding whether or not to get divorced it should come across as a humbling and huge responsibility for you to consider. When you were talking about divorce you are talking about performing a large experiment on your family in the hopes of improving the quality of all of your lives. That experiment may tone out for the best but I would be lying to you if I told you that there are no people who second guess the decision to move forward with the divorce. 

Fortunately, you do not have to, nor should you, tried to get a divorce without truly thinking through the long-term and short-term consequences of doing so. There are plenty of resources available for you to develop a strategy and determine whether or not getting the divorce is in your family's best interests. Every family is different. Yours is not the exception to that rule. As a result, you need to look at your family and make consideration of whether or not the sort of changes you are envisioning for your family is in everyone's best interests. That begins with you, as well. Many people spend a lot of time in a divorce concerned with how the case will impact everyone but themselves. 

I would examine your role in your family in terms of your status as a spouse and parent to determine what can be done to avoid a divorce. This requires you to be honest with yourself about what you may have done to lead your family into the position where divorce is being considered. If a divorce is on the table for your family it is unlikely that you are a completely innocent party. If there are steps you can take to help to begin to fix the problems in your marriage then you should determine whether or not you are in a position to do so. 

Sometimes a simple conversation with your spouse is all it takes to repair a broken relationship. Simply being willing to have an open and honest conversation may display some degree of humility and vulnerability that could spark a complete change like your relationship. I have seen this happen with families two are even in the midst of a divorce. To think that it would be impossible for your family to recover from some of the hurt brought about by money problems, infidelity or other marriage problems would be a mistake. You truly do not know until you try. 

Other times, the problems inherent in your marriage may require intervention by a marriage or family therapist. What I like to tell folks is that all of us are born with different tools in our toolboxes. Some of those tools help us in marriage and some of them do not. If you are not a great communicator, have problems admitting when you are wrong, or even accepting graciously an apology from your spouse then having discussions with him or she about the nature of your marital problems may not be what is best for you all. Rather, you may need to open yourselves up to discuss with an experienced marriage or family therapist to help guide you through those decisions and to help show you and teach you how to better communicate with your spouse in the future. 

Deciding to try therapy is another good litmus test for determining whether or not your spouse is willing to work with you to save your marriage. If you go to your spouse with some humility and ask him or her to attend counseling to save your marriage I would hope that their response would be a positive one. Many times, your spouse may be uncomfortable with the idea I'm going to therapy but if you make it clear to him or her that this is your desire and is something that you think could help save your marriage I would think your spouse would at least be curious to try it out. 

On the other hand, if your spouse is completely dead set against the idea of attending therapy then this may be a sign that your marriage is nearing its end. Not being willing to even discuss the problems if you're with your marriage in a stress-free and comfortable environment is not a great sign for the long-term future of your relationship. That's not to say that your marriage will be at an especially contentious or difficult one but it likely does mean that a divorce is fast approaching. 

Speaking to your children about divorce 

this is a question that I received from parents all the time when talking about divorce and children: how do I approach the subject of divorce with my kids? The answer to that question will depend in large part on the ages and maturity level of your children. If you have extremely small children in the home and their ability to comprehend anything about a divorce is going to be minimal. This doesn't mean that they won't notice union spouses not living together anymore but it does mean that their ability to account for the problems in your house and then understand what divorce means to them and their future is going to be minimal. I do not recommend belaboring the point of your divorce with very small kids. 

Simply telling them that your family is going to be undergoing some changes and that these changes will hopefully make everyone happy is a great place to start. Otherwise, I would put yourself in a position where you are answering more questions than you are telling them things. Depending on your children, they may have many questions or very few. Either way, you should meet them on their level and be clear about what divorce means and what it does not mean. While it may mean that your family is going to look different shortly than it does right now it does not mean that you all are going to stop loving the children. 

For older children, you can be more specific with what divorce means to your family both in the short term and long term future. Whereas younger children may not understand much of anything regarding the conversation you were having with the older children probably understand more than you would like to think and may react in ways that leave you feeling unsettled or unhappy. 

For example, your older children may immediately become upset or even try to take sides with one parent over the other be of good cheer that even if that were to happen the mind and opinions of a child can change like the weather. Just because your child is upset with you now does not mean that this will always be the case. You should be patient with your child and not stop showing love to him or her no matter what the situation may be with your marriage or family life. 

With any child, no matter their age, I would recommend being as clear as possible. One of my favorite sayings when discussing divorce in child custody cases with clients is that to be unclear is to be unkind. By this, I mean that if you are not crystal clear with the person you are communicating with they may get the wrong idea about what you were talking about or maybe be led to believe something that is not true. That's not to say that you were purposely trying to mislead him or her but it does speak to the importance of being able to effectively communicate ideas and changes especially to your children. 

Do not give your children the idea that divorce is only temporary. Do not give your children the idea that it may only be for a short period that your spouse is moving out of the house. Unless, of course, that is truly your intent and you all are going to try some degree of marriage counseling or therapy to see if the marriage can be salvaged. Otherwise, my recommendation would be to layout the necessary information about your divorce, which isn't that much depending on the age of your child, and then leave more time to answer questions period this will allow your child to feel satisfied with what is going on in their life but will not overburden him or her with information that is not relevant to them. Allow your child to dictate where the conversation goes and he will be better off. 

What about separation before the divorce? 

As opposed to some other states, Texas does not legally acknowledge separations before the divorce. That's not to say that separating or moving out of the family home before divorce does not have consequences, however. What it does mean is that there is no such thing as a legal separation in Texas that is not a formal designation that you can seek before your divorce. Moving out does present some challenges for your family and some opportunities at the same time. The rest of today's blog post will focus on that subject. 

What I see happening more often than not when it comes to a party moving from the family home is that fathers will typically attempt to detoxify a house by choosing to move out. If you are a dad in this position you may see this as being a Noble effort to make your family happier in the short term while the terms of a divorce are worked on. The question that many more fathers should be asking in this position is whether or not that is a good move for them in the long term. 

The most basic consideration you can make when it comes to deciding whether or not to move out of your family home in anticipation of a divorce is that you will not likely be able to re-enter the house. This is important from a logistical perspective in that you need to get all of your belongings out of the house at this time before leaving. There is no guarantee that you will be able to reenter the house during the divorce. It is also important for you to document the property in the home since you will not be able to directly control it. For instance, I would recommend getting a camera and taking photos of each room in the house and the contents of any safe or other places where you keep valuables. Yours would not be the first divorce to see something valuable go missing. 

Next, if you have any intent on becoming the primary conservator of your children then you should seriously consider not moving out of the house even if it means some uncomfortable situations before the divorce starts. Or, if you do choose to move you should talk to your spouse about you taking the children with you. Well, it may make sense for you to alleviate the stress in your life by leaving the home, a family court judge could just as easily see the situation as being one where you are neglecting your parenting duties during the case and placing more responsibility on your spouse. 

The other consideration to separating before divorce that you need to consider is that by doing so you are less likely to be able to be named as the person who gets to remain in the family house after the divorce. An exception to this concept is if your spouse cannot afford to make the payment on the mortgage on her own and you would be better off doing so. As you can see, there is a lot at stake when it comes to deciding to remain in or separate yourself from your spouse before the divorce. Speak with an experienced family law attorney before making this important decision. 

Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations can go a long way towards helping you learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as to determine how your family circumstances may change by the filing of a divorce or child custody case. 

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