Should I Get a Divorce Checklist

Which words would you use to describe your marriage?  Happiness, harmony, laughter? Or frustration, irritation, anger, endless arguments?

If you disagree with your spouse, can the two of you talk the matter over and come to a solution, or does it result in an argument or fight? Perhaps it’s even in front of the children; something you vowed you would never do? And if you’re having these sorts of problems, has getting a divorce ever crossed your mind, especially because you’ve read that that would ultimately be better for the kids.

Well, I can be quite clear about that: “No, it won’t!”

I was a divorce mediator before I began saving marriages. To my surprise, I noticed that most people were not at all prepared when they came to see me.

Many hadn’t even considered what their life would look like during or after the divorce. In fact, they often even didn’t know if their marriage was truly “over”. Usually, they just believed their therapist who had told them that their marriage couldn’t be saved.

Divorce is far more complicated than most people realize, thanks to the divorce industry that makes billions from divorce. 95% of the time, it is not the escape most people imagine it to be. “Jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire,” would be a better description of what really happens.

If you are considering divorce, then now is not the time to be impulsive. At this stage, it is of the utmost importance that you carefully consider all of your options and check all the facts before you act.

In this article, I’ve laid out the most pressing and relevant questions one should consider before getting a divorce, and I’ve separated them into 6 sections:

  1. Finances
  2. Your children
  3. Yourselves
  4. Relationships after divorce
  5. Your social life
  6. Finally, if not most importantly: Is your marriage recoverable?

Carefully consider each question I pose, as it will help you decide what your next move should be.

If you seek other opinions, be sure to find someone impartial who won’t have the opportunity to make money from you; divorce lawyers or therapists will naturally want you to become their client.

One mostly neutral resource I’m aware of is the Second Saturday divorce support group. I used to speak there to offer an alternative to divorce and I found the professionals they invite to be caring and forthcoming. It’s a good organization that offers live one-day seminars which will provide you with practical and current information.

They don’t advocate saving marriages, which is what I do, but if you must divorce, they will tell you the truth when it comes to many important laws and the typical ways the courts handle divorce. They are a better resource than the courts themselves.

My hope, though, is that you will not need to get a divorce at all, but we will see. Many people think their marriage is not repairable because of something they heard someone say, or because their hurt feelings are speaking louder than their reason.

The vast majority of “reasons” for a divorce will most likely turn out to be fixable symptoms. As you work through this checklist, perhaps you will decide that fixing your marriage is a better path for you than getting a divorce.

Now get a pen and paper to take some notes and let’s get to the checklist.

1. Finances

No matter how you do it, a divorce is not cheap. It always costs more than you thought it would. It will turn your financial life painfully upside down regardless of how much or how little money you have and it will affect you for many years.

Are You Prepared To Pay For A Divorce?

Although it’s impossible to budget a hard number, these scenarios will help you get a feel for what’s coming. Consider where you fit into these scenarios:

If your combined income is around $100,000, one or both of you will pay between $30,000-60,000 for both lawyers, if you go to court. If you can avoid court battles you will save a lot of pain and money.

If you and your spouse can get along it is possible to use a divorce mediator for “only” $5,000-10,000.

If you have little or no assets, you can probably have a do-it-yourself divorce for the cost of filing fees, which is typically between $500-1,000, plus another $200 for ancillary costs such as serving your spouse. There are also divorce help businesses you can find on-line that can help you for a reasonable cost unless your case is complicated.

If you’re earning far above $100k, the determining factors will come down to how much you and your spouse decide to litigate.

For a much more thorough breakdown of costs, read my article, The Average Divorce Costs Over $30k.

Do You Have A Job Or Are You A Stay-At-Home Parent?

If you’ve been a stay-at-home parent who has been out of the workforce for many years, you may have difficulty breaking back into your industry. That will give rise to the following questions:

Will you have enough money for necessities? You will now have to shoulder the costs for cable, utilities, deposits for both, higher insurance rates, higher taxes, moving expenses, house supplies like towels, silverware, cookware, etc. And don’t forget your children will now need items at both homes.

The amount of money you spend on food will also be higher as you’ll probably be eating out more.

What Will Happen To Your Assets?

Do you have cars, cash, retirement accounts, a house, or investments? Who will get what? I think if most people did a rough thumbnail budget on a napkin, half of all divorcees would stay together. Most people don’t think about the costs, but they are all too real.

If you currently own a house, the most common scenario is that you’ll end up selling it because neither of you can afford it post-divorce. Both of you will probably move into lower-end apartments, regardless of who has the children.

If you own a business, litigation could/will negatively impact your business, customers, and employees.

Over 50% of divorces create poverty!

Have You Thought About Child Support and/or Alimony?

Most people already live paycheck to paycheck when supporting only one household, and now the same income will have to be stretched to support two households.

Ladies, don’t expect to be able to rely on child support and/or alimony, even if it has been awarded to you. Most people think their financial life won’t change much, but what you don’t realize is that if you’re barely making it now then the struggle will increase in unimaginable ways after the divorce.

Thank God most states are very serious about ex-husbands keeping up with child support, but some men take off and don’t care, preferring jail over what they think is unfair treatment. Women are not getting as much alimony as they used to anyway, because courts are moving more towards gender-neutral decisions. So, even though it’s usually only awarded when there are children, there are lots of caveats and it is never enough to maintain the lifestyle you’ve been used to.

For higher-earning couples, you may be in a situation where you are the one paying alimony and child support, which will be a significant part of your income. Generally speaking, the courts award a greater share of the money to whoever has the children.

Final Thoughts On Financial Concerns:

When I was a divorce mediator, countless women thought they could get a divorce, keep the house, keep the children, and live off alimony and child support paid for by their ex-husband, easy peasy. This was a pipe dream. What actually happens to most couples is that they have to sell their house, get cheap apartments, and sink into poverty, fighting the reality of not having enough money. Please don’t let this happen to you. If you must get a divorce, plan very carefully what your financial situation will look like and make changes before you are forced to.

2. Your Children

Have You Thought About The Logistics Of Caring For Your Children?

Although your children are dependent on you, their parents, they also lead a life of their own that you are currently supporting in many ways. The logistical challenges will dramatically INCREASE after divorce.

Who will get custody? Where will they live? Who will take them to school?

Who will take them to and pay for after-school activities?

How and when will they see the visiting parent? What if one parent moves out of the city, state or country? So many broken promises and missed visits. Divorce is very hard on your kids. It is downplayed, but make no mistake about how hard it is on children.

Will Your Children Be Psychologically Okay After Divorce?

Children pay the highest price for their parents’ divorce. Regardless of what many psychologists say to make you feel less guilty, your children are NEVER better off in a single parent home with “less tension”. All children are irreversibly harmed when their parents split up.

Divorce creates a great amount of insecurity in your children. They will feel neglected. They don’t “adjust”, they only adapt. They will suffer, period.

They watch their mom and dad become enemies, especially when fighting through the court system or when they bad-mouth each other. You two were more than just a support system. You were their air and water. They never had to think or worry about anything because of you. Now all of that changes.

Neither of you will be the “go to” person for them because they can no longer trust you. Look at how you treated their mother or father. Could you do that to them? Would you trust you?

Your kids will change for the worse. They often start to lie and tell you what you want to hear because they don’t want to be abandoned as you did their other parent.

Have You Considered All The Long Term Impacts Of Divorce On Your Kids?

This is a deep topic that I describe in detail in my article, The Effects Of Divorce On Children but the short answer is that a large number of them turn to drugs, alcohol, crime, and/or drop out of school. 80% of attempted suicides are people from broken homes. Please read the article.

Final Thoughts On Children’s Concerns: 

Parents who refuse to divorce ‘for the sake of their children’ are true heroes. It is the right choice. However, even better is to turn your efforts into the positive effort of fixing the core of your marriage and turning it into a hive of happiness. That way there are no losers. Everyone wins.

3. Yourselves

Because of how divorce is often portrayed in movies and television (but not when we look at the actors’ real lives), most couples imagine they will get along better after a divorce; the truth is they don’t. I’ve worked with many Hollywood types so trust me when I say that it is not like it is in movies. Let’s take a closer look.

Are You Psychologically Prepared For Divorce?

Your decision to marry was, and remains, one of the most important decisions of your life. Has that ever occurred to you? The psychological impact of failing at one of the greatest endeavors of your life will stick with you forever.

Divorce is considered by nearly every professional to be the worst possible catastrophe one encounters in life, second only to losing a child.

There is never a return to “normal”, especially if it is your first marriage. The effects of divorce are similar to PTSD. Even for divorcees who can afford the time and/or money for therapy or coaching, it still takes years before they feel any sense of “normal” again.

These are common effects of divorce:

  • Inability or greater difficulty opening your heart – This is by far the worst thing that happens because you essentially ARE your heart, also known as a soul.
  • A sense of self-loathing – Deserved or not, self-loathing is common.
  • Lack of self-confidence – Human beings are designed to progress. Fear is crippling. This failure is not like any other. It is huge in scope and complexity.
  • Becoming risk-averse – You will be overly cautious.
  • Depression – It’s a natural defense and almost impossible to avoid.
  • Mistrust of others, especially the opposite gender – This is due to misunderstanding the other gender, which is part of what caused the marital problems in the first place.
  • Hiding – Though rarely mentioned, nearly everyone “hides” in one form or another.

If you are one of the few for whom divorce is the only realistic answer, then that still won’t save you from all the problems mentioned above. But I believe over 90% of marriages on the verge of divorce can still be saved. It may not be “easy,” but it will definitely be much easier than divorce!

What Happens With The Loss Of Friendship Between You And Your Spouse?

Stories of ongoing friendships after a divorce are commonplace in the movies, but the reality is that this is quite rare. Betrayal is hard to swallow for the betrayed. Forgiveness comes only years later, if at all.

You married your best friend and then betrayed each other. Some delude themselves into thinking they were the only one who was betrayed, but that is silly. The layers of swallowed issues will grow even though they are buried.

“Doing something” about growing problems starts with learning how to behave and communicate, then you can reconnect with love, forgiveness and improved marital skills. Your idea for a divorce was literally caused by a lack of marriage skills. If you had you the right tools and knowledge, your marriage never would have fallen from the place of love from which it began. You can see that right? It should be self-evident. A skilled communicator can work with both good and poor communicators. A person with marriage skills can manage and enjoy marriage with a less skilled partner.

How Will You Cope With Years Of Dishevelment?

Divorce will destabilize your life, psychologically and materially. The resulting instability does not improve, even when your new lives create new experiences. Divorce is like dropping a bomb on your family. It is 100% destructive.

The “new life” you try to build is being laid upon the foundation of the quicksand of your past mistakes. Your family cannot be “re-built”. You’ll patch your individual lives back together again with duct tape and paperclips. These aren’t just trite analogies. This is what it’s like for most people.

Do You Have Time To Go Through A Divorce?

This may seem like a strange question, but your life is going to be put on a hard hold for a while. The process will take many months, maybe years. Divorce proceedings will be all-consuming of your time, finances, emotions and mind. Currently, there are two people who earn money and look after the house and kids. After the divorce, you will have to do it all on your own. Free time becomes non-existent.

Final Thoughts On Your Concerns:

The people who must divorce are just as bad off as those for whom it is only an option, but at least they can truly say “I have tried EVERYTHING”. Most who say this have really only read a few articles, maybe a book, or perhaps they even went to couple’s counseling or weekend retreats that were all ineffective. None of that will work when the going gets rough.

Hardly anyone is able to catch the break-down of their marriage in a timely manner. The best strategy is to stop the train and learn a correct approach to managing your marriage, and then make it count. Such an approach should be clear and logical to you and spell out specific results that you will gain from specific actions that will systematically lead back to marital harmony. If you have not used that as criteria, then you have not “tried everything”.

4. Romantic Relationships After Divorce

Are You Prepared To Re-Enter The Dating Scene?

After a divorce, women generally have a tougher time in this department than men. Typically, less than 30% of women remarry, while 85% of men do.  But that does not mean it’s easy for men, either. It is just that men tend to settle for a lower caliber partner more easily…at least at first.

The success rate for second marriages is dismal. The failure rate is much higher than for first marriages, which is already over 50%.

Regardless of gender or statistics, entering the dating scene as a middle-aged person who’s been off the market for years is no fun and only compounds the negative psychological effects described above. It can be done, but you’ll have to learn how to date all over again, and you won’t have your youthful attractiveness to offer potential mates. I am not being shallow, this is reality! It’s more honest than articles on dating that are designed to get you to buy magazines.

Are You Mentally Prepared For A Potential Future By Yourself?

The reality is that if you divorce, you will likely have a string of unsuccessful relationships and subsequent failed marriages. Do you believe that won’t happen to you? Why not? What have you learned from your mistakes?

Many who go through a divorce now think they have learned the “key” to marriage, but when asked they either can’t define it, or it’s baseless. Many divorce thinking their spouse is the problem, being a narcissist or angry and negative all the time. Even if your spouse is truly 100% of the problem, which is very rare, why did you pick them? How will you avoid picking someone similar? It’s very common for people to pick a new partner almost exactly like their previous spouse. Sometimes they even look similar or have the same name!

People repeat the exact same mistakes in future relationships because they do not see or understand:

  • The differences in the opposite gender
  • Their own correctable flaws and how to correct them
  • Unconditional love and how to manifest it in marriage
  • Their habits that need to change and how to change them
  • Instinctive reactions and how to contain them

Divorce almost always means a future by yourself, or with an unsuitable partner you tolerate just so that you’re not alone.

How Will Your Children Impact Your Dating Life?

Obviously, children are a factor in attracting dates, and also require planning for babysitters and bedtimes. But a bigger concern is that you have to allocate time to dating that should be spent with your kids. Everyone is torn with guilt and rarely able to achieve a balance.

Final Thoughts On Romantic Relationships After Divorce:

Movies and television paint a false picture. Ask your divorced friends! You will adjust, of course, you have no choice, and everyone will adjust differently. But when I tell you that it is far easier to fix your marriage than get a divorce, it is because I have seen both sides. I’ve helped too many people get a divorce, and now I help people find happiness starting right from where they are. There is no comparison. Don’t wait for 20/20 hindsight to convince you. Trust someone who knows.

5. Your Friends, Social Life, And Holidays

This area of your life is different based on gender. For women, your social and family life generally continues unhindered. Men tend to be outcast from their old social life and will need to build a new one.

Have You Checked In With Your Friends?

Women: Your friends will generally support you based upon the decision they think you’ve already made. They won’t necessarily give you beneficial advice. You are not going to take it anyway, so why should they ruin a friendship?

Men: If you complain your friends might listen for all of 10 seconds, but generally, guys will distance themselves from the topic or crack jokes.

I don’t recommend checking in with your friends at all for men or women. It’s your marriage and no one really knows what’s going on inside it. Any advice you get will be based only on what you tell someone. It is better to do tons of research instead.

Which Of Your Friends Will Stick With You?

For men, your “couples” friends, who you double-dated, or went on vacations with, will generally stick with your ex-wife, to please their own wife. If you’ve been married a while, most of your pre-marriage friends will have moved on or gotten married themselves. You will be very vulnerable.

Where Will You Go For Holidays And Family Gatherings?

Men, you’ll often find your greater family centering around your ex-wife and children. You might feel excluded and end up spending many of your holidays in Vegas.

Final Thoughts On Your Social Life:

Even considering everything that is going on in both of your personal lives, it will be watching your children trying to cope that will cause you the most heartache.

6. Is Your Marriage Recoverable?

To me, this is the MOST important question and you should not try to answer it yourself! You are welcome to ask our counselors and we will tell you the truth. There is no cost and no obligation to write in.

Some marriages cannot be saved, but far fewer than most people think. The reason for the ignorance in this area is that, and I will be candid, society has left it to the psychological profession to be the marital problem solvers. But, by definition, psychology is only a small part of the marital framework. Of course, marriage has a psychological component, but that is rarely where marriages break down. Think about it.

Marriage has a psychological component, but that is a very individual part of your own interface with your marriage. You do not share a mind with anyone; your mind is yours alone.

Marriage is primarily based on love, which is not a creation of man, so has to be understood spiritually, not necessarily religiously, as religion is mostly about morality. The spirituality of marriage needs to be understood. Psychologists have no clue in this area.

Then there is communication, sex, intimacy, and other components that are simply above the paygrade of psychologists. So when they say they cannot help a marriage, they are telling the truth, they cannot help. But that doesn’t mean no one else can’t, or that the marriage is over. The marriage isn’t over until the individual or couple agrees it is.

There are cases that make marriage-recovery nearly impossible:

Are You Or Your Spouse On Drugs, Alcohol, or Psychotropic medicines?

It is possible to recover a marriage in this situation, but it is very difficult. The negative psychological influences of these substances make it an uphill battle. These don’t cause divorce by themselves, but they make it impossible to open your heart. You will have to work much harder to overcome both the current marital challenges and the psychological effects of chemical substances.

You must be guided by your own moral convictions of course, but drugs, alcohol, etc will hurt your chances to such an extent that I would not see clients if they were a big factor of the problem. A little marijuana (less than monthly) or a little beer or wine (not as big a deal, even if it is daily) are not what I’m talking about.

Have You Discovered Something Dangerous About Your Spouse?

If you are in any of the following situations you should end the marriage, except where otherwise noted.

Is your spouse a pedophile? 

Pedophilia is a disease we do not know how to cure. You may feel sorry for that person, but you need to end the marriage.

Is your spouse part of a criminal organization?

Criminal “life” is dangerous. Neither you nor your children are safe. Forget what you see in movies and on TV. Criminals by definition are dangerous.

Is your spouse a violent alcoholic or drug addict? 

Unlike the question of alcohol and drugs above, this one focuses on the violent aspect. You have an obligation to keep your children away from actual danger. Sometimes a violent addict recovers, so try to leave the door open.

Is your spouse physically violent and refuses to effectively deal with it?

There are degrees of “violence”. You need to carefully evaluate your situation, but again it is important to keep your children out of harm’s way.

Does your husband have another family? 

This never gets better for you and your children. There is no possible good outcome.

Is your spouse in a cult and forcing it on your children? 

Cults are dangerous. They are a “drug” of sorts. Cultists don’t change.

Is Your Spouse Having An Affair?

Infidelity is one of the most common “reasons” people get a divorce, but should truly be seen as a symptom of underlying marriage problems that need to be addressed. People with great marriages don’t cheat, so don’t think if you are being cheated on that you are innocent. Your marriage problems existed long before the infidelity.

Cheating is immoral, but the world has lowered the bar on that consideration considerably. Men use porn and extracurricular sex to escape from a marriage that was already bad, to begin with. In no way would any normal person say it is okay to cheat, but neither is it okay to end your marriage because of it. That just excuses the real problems you both participated in.

This situation is sometimes recoverable, and can even turn into a great marriage. The determining factors are different depending on gender:

Men: If your wife is having an affair, it’s usually the end of your marriage no matter what you do. I use the word “usually” because, in all my years, I’ve only heard of one marriage being saved when the wife was having an actual affair. When women stray, they usually do so with their hearts, and there are two parts to this. On the one hand, she broke the bond that kept her your wife. On the other hand, she gave her heart to another man. VERY few women have sexual flings or multiple partners.

WomenWhen men are unfaithful it’s RARELY over!

Husbands will still come back from affairs, even after they have moved in with a girlfriend. Whether or not you can move past the hurt and forgive them is a big challenge, which I fully understand and discuss in other articles. But be assured that this situation is recoverable. Infidelity was only the most visible symptom of problems that had been plaguing your marriage for years. If you fix those problems, the infidelity won’t be an issue any longer. It will go away forever.

Are You Currently Separated?

Believe it or not, this is not the end of your marriage. As long as you have an opportunity to meet with your spouse on occasion, recovery is likely. Rebuilding a marriage in this situation is not a rare occurrence for us, as long as the wife is willing to work to make it happen due to the dynamics between the genders.

That does not mean dragging your spouse to a counseling session and having them fix their problems. That means broadly addressing your marriage’s health, starting with stabilizing it. You need to become a changed and improved person, probably similar to the person you were when you were first started dating. This is the only chance you have at attracting them back if they have already left – and we do it all the time.

Final Thoughts On If Your Marriage Is Recoverable:

Most marriages can and should be saved.

If your marriage can be saved, fighting for your marriage does NOT mean fighting the divorce itself. Like infidelity, the divorce is not the problem; it’s the symptom. It is not the thing that is killing your marriage.

Your marriage is dysfunctional due to your and your spouse’s behaviors; both of you, which was caused by incorrect (uneducated) thinking on both your parts. This does not mean morally wrong, but rather behavior and thoughts that are destructive to a marriage.

Saving your marriage is still possible, even if you have already begun divorce proceedings.

You may think you have “tried everything,” or have been to many traditional counselors. But so far you’ve only tried things that statistically don’t work. Less than 10% of people who see a traditional counselor stay together long term. Knowing that, why would anyone go to one? Don’t be discouraged by it, there is too much at stake.

Saving your marriage is not accomplished just by making any random effort. It is only possible with the “right” effort.

You won’t find success without making a sufficient change in yourself, an evolution of consciousness that is sufficient to attract your husband back into your life or your wife back into your heart. That is the very first step. Trust me on this. This discovery of where to begin the process of saving a marriage raised my success rate to over 90%. While most therapists start with the problems, I begin with your individual thinking.

I mentioned at the start of the article that I was a divorce mediator, then became a marriage saver. This transition occurred after I saw over and over again, the same fixable reasons people were getting a divorce. I eventually systematized all of my knowledge so that anyone could follow it on their own to save their marriages. People were even able to save their marriages alone, even when their spouse wasn’t interested at first.

We do not just give you marriage tips, or how to “convince” (trick) your spouse into thinking you are a different person, or that it was just a “mistake” and you should get back together. That kind of “help” is more harmful than beneficial.

Our system gives you an opportunity to re-evaluate your habitual thinking and make real and permanent changes. You will learn how to create new habits that will make you into the person you want to be, and a person your spouse wants to be with again.

Before spending thousands of dollars and several months turning your life upside down by going through a divorce, please consider my program. I’ve produced a 45-minute video (YouTube) you can watch where you’ll get to meet me as I describe how my system works.

You can do this! You can be happy again. But don’t just find random resources looking for tips here and there. That’s not how any real education works in any field. You need to take your marital education seriously. My program is structured and proven to work. I will show you how to gain control over your thoughts and emotions. You will need to put in the effort, but you will quickly see all the mistakes you made in the past, and that your current marriage is the most incredible opportunity for joy and happiness.

With divorce on the table or even pending, you are in a situation where you must act quickly. Please read the articles and watch the video linked above. If you are interested, you can read about my 12-week marriage-saving system here.

The process of recovering your marriage is simple. It may not be easy, but my system is very successful when taken seriously.

I hope you’ll take all of my experience to heart and that you’ll learn from the mistakes of others so that you don’t have to go through them yourself. I want only the best for you.