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‘My Spouse Just Asked for a Divorce. What Do I Do?’

When you’re on the receiving end of hearing that your spouse wants to split, you’re going to experience a lot of emotions. This is a time to be gentle with yourself, as you need to process what’s happening in real time.

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“I’ve thought it through, and I want a divorce.” These are the words you never want to hear. 

When your spouse tells you they want a divorce, it can feel like being blindsided by a football linebacker coming at full speed.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re totally unaware your spouse felt this way or if you were aware of the problems. The reality is that if your spouse wants a divorce, you can’t just stick your head in the sand and hope the problem goes away. You must take the necessary steps and then move forward as best you can. 

So, what should those next steps be?

‘I Never Thought We’d Get Divorced. I’m in Shock. What Should I Do?’

When you’re on the receiving end of hearing that your spouse wants to split, you’re going to experience a lot of emotions, including shock, anger, disbelief, sadness and grief. This is a time to be gentle with yourself, as you need to process what’s happening in real time.

The first thing on your to-do list should be scheduling a consultation with an experienced, caring family law attorney. Look for a lawyer with experience, especially one who’s a Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney. These certified attorneys meet the highest standard in handling matrimonial issues in New Jersey. Like any certification process, this signifies that the attorney is a master in matrimonial issues, demonstrating that he or she possesses superior knowledge in several key matrimonial issues, like divorce.

When you meet, an experienced, caring attorney will ask about your unique circumstances, and then let you know what your options are. If you want to avoid litigation, there are alternative dispute resolution options available to you, including mediation, collaborative law and arbitration. They’ll also be able to objectively offer some counsel on reconciliation if this is still an option and if your spouse is open to a discussion. They can also point you in the direction of other professionals, like a marriage counselor or a therapist, who you might need at this stage.

Another option that some couples take instead of getting divorced is a trial separation. An experienced divorce attorney will be able to help you with this as well, especially if it pertains to your specific case.

What’s the Difference Between Separation and Divorce?

In a nutshell, a divorce is the permanent ending of your marriage, while a separation is more like a “pause” in your marriage. In New Jersey, there are two ways you and your spouse can legally separate without ending your marriage through a final divorce decree. 

The first of these isn’t used very often and is called a “divorce from bed and board.” This is like a finalized divorce, with the exception that the two spouses are still legally married. In this type of separation, the spouses still split up the property and must come to a custody and child support agreement. However, they’re still technically married to each other (and therefore would require a full divorce decree if they wanted to remarry in the future). Again, this is rarely used or granted in New Jersey, although it’s still on the books.

The other way to handle this is with a “legal separation agreement.” In this case, you’d be living apart, although still legally married and theoretically working on a reconciliation. However, should you decide to divorce, the terms of the divorce would already be worked out in a legally binding contract. 

During the separation, you’d have to determine property distribution, child custody and visitation, alimony, and child support. However, this agreement would be held in place until you decide to get a divorce or until you nullify the agreement with a full reconciliation. 

Divorce is already a difficult situation. But if one spouse isn’t willing or ready to move on and part ways, then it can be especially trying. 

As part of the separation process, you may want to consider marriage counseling. Just remember that this isn’t mandatory. Your spouse doesn’t have to go to counseling and, even if they do, they may still file for divorce. However, many couples are open to working out their differences and do avoid a divorce.

However, if your spouse makes a legal filing, you can’t stop it. In fact, New Jersey law doesn’t require consent from both parties to divorce. At this point, you’ll have no choice but to take part in the divorce proceedings, which should include protecting your rights and assets. 

That’s why having an experienced family attorney is so important. If you should still reconcile later in the process, the original spouse who filed for the divorce can file to have it dismissed, which would then bring the proceedings to an end.

How Can a Divorce Attorney Help Me When I Don’t Want to Get Divorced?

The title “divorce attorney” may freak people out. It implies that if you go to an attorney, you’re seeking a divorce, even if you hope for a reconciliation. Divorce or family law attorneys aren’t looking to “talk you into a divorce.” They are, however, offering you the following:

Your First Step: Seek the Counsel of an Experienced Family Law Attorney

If divorce is truly your next step, then you want it to go amicably. But this isn’t always a reality. If you make a mistake in the process, especially when it comes to your assets and finances, then those mistakes can haunt you for years to come. An experienced family attorney has seen all of these possibilities and can help you navigate your way through the process.

Contact the Experienced Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group in Woodbury, NJ Today

If you’re thinking about filing for divorce, you’ll also most likely be dealing with another matter like child custody, child support, or division of assets, so you’ll need to speak with a qualified attorney. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group represent clients throughout the state, including West Deptford, Woodbury Heights, Runnemede, and Westville. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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