The Right Time to File for Divorce
Published April 15, 2020

Chan P Townsley

Attorney at Law

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The Right Time to File for Divorce

When is the right time to file for divorce? Most generally, if you are unhappy in your married relationship, the time is now.   Happiness is part of mental health, and it’s not healthy to stay in an unhappy relationship.  The first step is to attempt to fix that relationship—but if it can’t be fixed, it should be dissolved.

                People often put off divorce for a number of reasons, including “the good of the children,” waiting until school or some training is completed, and frequently, because “things aren’t so bad now, but if it gets any worse…”  Every relationship is different. Depending on your facts, your reasons may be valid.  But delay is not always your friend, and situations do not always improve; they can get worse.

                In divorce, a court will attempt to “equitably” divide all your marital assets and all your marital debts, as they exist at that time.  So if you are currently in an unhappy marriage but a generally stable life- both parties employed, working steadily, good health- you can anticipate a relatively stable life post-divorce.

But what happens if you delay and your spouse loses employment before you file?  You may end up with less support yourself, or having to pay support. 

What if you and your spouse cannot agree on finances? You can separate your accounts, but later, and sometimes years later, when divorce is filed, the court may not recognize that separation and may “equitably” divide the assets you saved while your spouse saved nothing.  You may even be assigned some of your spouse’s debt.  “Saving” the relationship in this way may delay the divorce but result in substantial financial harm when the divorce occurs.

If you are in school or some training program while your spouse is providing for home and lifestyle, delaying divorce may be warranted.  However, if that training will or actually does result in substantial increase in your pay, that increased income may be utilized by the court as it determines questions of maintenance (alimony), allocation of debt, and division of your assets.   Delay may be beneficial, and it may not.  Generally, if you expect there will ultimately be a large disparity in income after training, and you can finance that training and your lifestyle without the assistance of your spouse, it is better to divorce sooner rather than later (again assuming the relationship cannot be saved).

A perpetual question is “what is best for the children?”  Generally, staying in a relationship rife with conflict, tension, anger or instability is not good for the children in the long run. Children thrive on stability and joint support. Emotional conflict and especially physical conflict with your spouse will cause long-term scars and other negative impacts on your children’s lives. It can even impact the way they raise their own children. Delay in this type of case can be extremely harmful to everyone in the family.  Frequently, two people who cannot live in a marital relationship become better parents individually following divorce. 

There is no fixed answer to the question “When is it the right time to file for divorce?”  If you are unhappy in your marriage, for reasons that can’t or won’t change, divorce is an option to seriously consider.  It is an individual question.  But most reasons for delay are not good reasons and it is the rare set of facts for which delay is justified.  You are responsible for your own mental health and well-being. An unhappy relationship is reason to change the relationship. You can and should seek the advice of an attorney concerning the potential advantages and disadvantages of divorce.  Then you can make an informed decision about divorce and when the time is right.  

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