I once read where the average person who files for divorce has been thinking of doing so for two years. That amazed me at the time, but after experiencing my own divorce, it rang true. But this little essay is not about deciding to file for divorce. Rather, it’s about when to file.
I believe a strong case can be made for filing your divorce as soon as your logistical concerns are met. What I mean is once you have determined that a divorce is imminent, there is little reason to dally. However, often times we depend on our spouse to help pay for the cost of living, so you must make sure your rent is paid. Make sure your bills are paid. Once the logistics of your life are sorted out for the foreseeable future, go ahead and file. This may mean it takes you several months before you can file. For example, if your lease is expiring in February, and you can’t afford to break your lease before you plan to move out, you need to plan for that, and hold off filing. Filing a divorce when you still have several months of living with your spouse ahead of you could be a disaster. Likewise, if you file now, and your spouse up and moves out sticking you with the full cost of your rent, you could be put into a financial pickle. Similarly, many divorces are long, tough legal battles that may cost several thousand dollars, so you may need to build up your “war chest” before you can file.
The flip side of filing promptly is the potential for the relationship to devolve over time while you wait to file. When you and your spouse know a divorce is imminent, but you wait to file, many factors may come into play because of the emotions involved in a divorce. Regret, resentment, feelings of betrayal, fear of the unknown, etc. can all affect how your spouse reacts when he or she gets the news that you want a divorce. These feelings can lead to acts that jeopardize your safety, the safety of your children, your position in the divorce, and even your rights. For example, it is not uncommon for one spouse to call the police on the other in an effort to gain the upper hand in the forthcoming custody battle for the children. Filing promptly may help prevent the relationship from eroding any more than necessary by shortening the time frame that the couple remains married. Once the papers are filed, and the spouse sees that the terms of the divorce are fair, it often removes some of the pressure and fear of the unknown.
So when you start thinking of filing your divorce, consider that filing promptly may be the best alternative. While you should be sure to look at the logistics of filing, not just the emotions, keep in mind that needless delay may extend the duration of the suffering for both parties.