This material is adapted from the award-winning book by Ed Sherman, “Make any Divorce Better.” Ed Sherman is one of the founders of Divorce Helpline. His dedication to providing compassionate and cost-effective personalized legal support to those facing divorce resulted in the unique service model that distinguishes Divorce Helpline from other California divorce attorneys and divorce document services.
If you are contemplating a divorce, the best thing you can do is to start off in a way that will minimize conflict.
Typically, one spouse is ready to act long before the other has accepted the idea of a divorce. Moving too fast can cause a lot of problems. Among other things, you don’t want to frighten or anger your spouse into running to an attorney and taking the case into conflict. Take some time to prepare your spouse and let your spouse get used to the idea that a divorce is really happening.
Don’t make any sudden moves that will affect your spouse without telling him or her about it first. Give your spouse plenty of time to adjust, to get used to the idea, to make other plans. This includes closing accounts, taking things out of the house, withdrawing funds or filing papers. Lawyers are notoriously bad letter-writers and generally tend to upset people even without meaning to; so if your lawyer plans to write to your spouse, make sure you smooth the way first.
If you file for a divorce, tell your spouse ahead of time that papers are coming. Explain that there’s lots of time to talk before a Response is necessary. Put it in writing. Send a letter saying that you filed papers to get the case on record, but you very much want an agreement, and you promise not to go further without giving 30 days written notice. If you have a lawyer, get your lawyer to send such a letter before papers are served.
Consider filing the Petition so it requires a Marital Settlement Agreement. Make it so you can’t go forward without either an agreement or an amended Petition. These steps let your spouse know there’s no need to respond in a hurry, that there’s time to talk. You can also refer him or her to this website for more information. Our FAQ page is a good place to start.
Whether or not your spouse gets into the case, keep working on an agreement — that’s the only sensible option for any case. If you get stuck, get advice. In California, call Divorce Helpline at 1-800-359-7004, and we can help you figure out how to move forward.