Should You Get a Divorce?
By Attorney Jennifer Lazor
Spoiler alert: I lured you in with a question I am not qualified to answer. However, despite this limitation, I find people are asking me some form of the question—should I get a divorce?—more and more lately. Maybe it’s the pandemic, maybe it’s the New Year, but this question finds its way to the surface, as if no one trusts their instincts, particularly after a year that upended all definitions of normalcy.
However, in my experience as a family law attorney, even absent a global pandemic, it is not uncommon for people to grapple with the question of divorce for years before deciding to file. In this post I want to share some considerations through the lens of a family lawyer, for people caught in between question and decision over ending their marriage. In other words, this post contemplates a scenario where a couple knows something is not quite as hoped and have embarked on the somewhat ominous sounding effort of “working on the marriage.” One caveat: these points do not contemplate situations where there is domestic violence, child abuse, and/or substance abuse, as those issues require different evaluation and attention than addressed here.
Is there a genuine effort to improve the marriage—or is there another motivation?
Often couples find themselves at the proverbial fork in the road, with arrows pointing to “stay” in one direction, and “go” in the other. Sometimes there is a physical separation; sometimes living under the same roof feels more difficult than it should be. It’s an emotionally dicey time. You want to believe that if you are genuinely working on your marriage, so is your spouse. However, if you both are aware there are problems in the relationship and divorce is a potential, even if yet unspoken outcome, you need to be on alert for any behaviors indicating you are not similarly motivated. In other, words you are trying to assess whether your spouse is postponing divorce for reasons other than assessing the viability of the marriage. Rather, is he or she trying to revise what has been your marital “norm” to recreate more favorable precedents in the event of a divorce? Here are some circumstances to consider:
Is there a timeline setting the agenda?
Maybe you a have a premarital agreement with payments that increase the longer you are married. It could be that the longer you are married creates a more significant alimony obligation. Maybe your spouse wants to achieve a retirement date earlier than the law contemplates to reduce a potential alimony obligation he or she would otherwise have to pay. The point is there can be reasons why your spouse represents he or she wants to continue in the marriage—some of those reasons genuine, others potentially more in line with what is sometimes called “divorce planning.”
Have there been any material changes in your financial status quo?
Have your vacations gone from likes of first-class accommodations at the Ritz, Paris to a motel “down the shore”? Or is the opposite true: Has your spouse morphed from a coupon-clipping Target-shopper to a connoisseur of luxury brands never before seen in your household? Were all your financial records previously available for you both to review but now they have been redirected to only one spouse? Are there new credit cards and bank accounts to which you do not have access? These can be telltale signs that someone is using a rough patch in the relationship to reset certain financial precedents more advantageously to them in the event of divorce.
Are you getting what you asked for?
During this time have you requested marriage counseling; date nights; greater financial transparency or shared financial decision-making; a reordering of parental and household responsibilities? Whether your requests are being met may also indicate the genuineness of your spouse’s efforts toward your relationship.
Everyone knows marriage is difficult. Adding some levity to the situation, is the quote from the comedian Henny Youngman, “The secret of a happy marriage remains a secret.” You and your spouse can be waffling over the status of your marriage in good faith and with no agenda other than to ensure you have given the decision whether to stay or go the time it deserves. However, if any of these points resonate with you, or you are in the process of reevaluating your marriage, it helps to have a family law attorney’s perspective on how your circumstances may impact a potential divorce. As always, we at Lazor Rantas have the bandwidth to help inject some objective considerations into an extremely emotional time.
For a different point of view, below is a link to an interview on goop.com with Sara Nasserzadeh, PhD, entitled, “How Do You Know When Your Marriage Is Over.”
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If you are considering a divorce and need an attorney who can effectively represent you through every step you can count on Lazor Rantas, PC. We proudly serve clients throughout New Jersey as they navigate divorce and family law matters. To discuss your case with an experienced legal team, contact Lazor Rantas, PC today.