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What if I'm ready for a divorce and my spouse isn't?

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In a prior blog article, we discussed a couple of the issues that can prolong a divorce case beyond the state's minimum 60-day window. We touched on the conflicts that can delay a divorce, which typically happen when both parties are fully engaged in either trying to work out a settlement or presenting their cases to the judge to win a favorable settlement.

But not everyone who faces the prospect of divorce wants to get divorced, and so a dynamic called "divorce readiness" can enter the picture.

Divorce readiness is exactly what it sounds like: How prepared someone is emotionally to go through with a divorce.

In some marriages, both parties are aware of the growing conflict and come to a mutual decision to proceed with a divorce. But in others, one person grows more discontented with the marriage than the other person. The person initiating divorce goes through part of the grieving process about the end of the marriage while preparing for the divorce emotionally, and then announces he or she wants a divorce to a spouse who might not even have seen it coming.

In those cases, divorce readiness can have an impact on how the divorce proceeds. It's possible that you hire an attorney, file the divorce petition to start the clock, and prepare things on your end . . . and your spouse does nothing.

As we noted in the previous article, once a petition is filed, the respondent has an initial window of about three weeks in which to respond. While some respondents choose to fight, even filing counter petitions to contest the allegations in the original petition, some may not respond at all.

While a divorce can eventually proceed even if one of the parties doesn't engage in the process, it certainly makes it easier if both parties are involved. The court can compel a reluctant party to provide information on assets and debts through the discovery process, and counsel for the more divorce ready person can prepare a settlement proposal the other person might find amenable.

But in cases involving different levels of divorce readiness, the person initiating the divorce may have to simply practice patience as the less-ready person adjusts to what very well may be a shifting the paradigm of the world he or she lives in. If the person initiating the divorce has caught the other person off guard, he or she may not even be able to start the initial mourning period that helps him or her get to preparing for divorce. He or she may still be in "I love you, we can make this work" mode.

In cases like this, we take the approach that the client wants us to take, but with a level of restraint that will help the less-ready person get to the table eventually able to discuss the settlement. An overly aggressive approach in these situations create the danger of pushback, which might create more roadblocks and delays.

Of course, because it is an emotional time for each party, I highly recommend having counselors helping each person through the process. While there's a legal process which holds to a sometimes-delayed but eventually-moving-forward schedule, the emotional process is much more individualized and much less linear.

At the Law Office of Lisa Vance, we make a point of saying that your lawyer is not your counselor-because we value the special insights that counselors can bring to the emotional well-being of our clients.

But we also want you to have the best post-divorce life possible, and when you meet with us, we can explore options to help achieve that, and guide you through the divorce option that works best for you.

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