How to Tell Your Spouse You Want a Divorce?

How to tell your spouse you want a divorce

How to tell your spouse you want a divorce?
Your first move may be important

Our divorce attorneys realize there are certain aspects of family law that inevitably crossover between the right choice from a legal perspective and one from an emotional one. One of those issues deals with the question of how to tell your spouse you want a divorce.

You may get answers on both sides of the scale. Some will state that you tell your spouse you want a divorce bluntly and quickly. Others will state you don’t say anything and just file for divorce. Our divorce attorneys do not look at either as the right answer for everyone, because we believe the answer varies from person to person and family to family. Our attorneys look at this issue purely from a legal perspective and what impact, if any, “how” you tell your spouse you want a divorce may have on your California divorce case.

What you read in this article is not legal advice and it certainly is not psychological or counseling advice. It is simply some of the factors you may wish to take into consideration, from the perspective of planning your California family law case, when trying to answer the question of how to tell your spouse you want a divorce. 

How to tell your spouse you want a divorce – the timing

The “how” may depend on the “when.” In other words, how to tell your spouse you want a divorce may depend on what planning and preparation you have done before the divorce decision was made.

For example, if you are a victim of domestic violence, you could potentially expose yourself to additional violence if you tell your spouse you want a divorce in an isolated setting, between the two of you and without protection, especially if your spouse reacts (or is prone to react) with anger and more violence. If you are such a victim and you are in danger, seeking a domestic violence restraining order in family court may be necessary before you proceed forward with the divorce or communicate your intentions.

Similarly, if you are completely dependent on your spouse financially and you have no means to care for yourself (or your children) from that financial perspective, before you decide how to tell your spouse you want a divorce, you may wish to first do enough planning and preparation to have a fallback (a roof over your head to start) at the outset of your divorce case and before the family law judge at the Lamoreaux Justice Center orders temporary child and spousal support. Understanding the California spousal support guidelines as well as child support guidelines is an important part of divorce planning. In California, support matters are rarely urgent so it may take one to two months before you get a support order. Planning for that delay is wise.

The key to the “when” question may be to make sure you don’t rush the decision to tell your spouse you want divorce anymore then you unnecessarily and unreasonably procrastinate and make a bad situation worse. Our divorce lawyers realize this may be a balance you will have to strike and it may help to seek both marriage counseling (either alone or with your spouse, also depending on various factors) before you make a decision unless there is a compelling reason not to do so as well as seek a consultation with a knowledgeable family law attorney for your California family law case to ensure you at least know some of your options when and how you decide to proceed forward.

How to tell your spouse you want a divorce – the witnesses

Family may be helpful when dealing with this question. Chances are, some member of your family or someone close to them has been through a similar situation as you are about to embark. Whether or not you tell your spouse you want a divorce in a one-on-one conversation with your spouse or whether you have family members involved and present depends on the type of reaction you may get from your spouse.

Depending on the length of your marriage and other factors, you may feel that you know your spouse’s personality pretty well. This is where you must use your common sense and instincts to determine whether your spouse is the type that will lash out at you violently (which may be less likely if there are witnesses present), engage in behavior to hurt you financially (draining bank accounts, canceling credit cards and hiding income or assets) or react appropriately. Each of these factors may have an impact on your subsequent divorce case, including the immediate and temporary orders you seek and the cost associated with them.

From a legal perspective, there is no right answer and how to tell your spouse you want a divorce depends very much on the family dynamic and your spouse’s personality as well as your own.

How to tell your spouse you want a divorce – filing for divorce

This is not an uncommon way that spouses communicate their intention for divorce. We have seen situations where one spouse’s first notice or communication that his or her spouse wants a divorce is the service of a divorce petition. There is no right or wrong here and some may advocate this is the safest way to proceed forward with a divorce. After all, you have an opportunity to hire an attorney, do the reasonable or necessary planning before you file and not have to confront your spouse in a one-on-one.

Do your due diligence

As you can read, there is no one right potential answer, from a legal perspective, to the question of how to tell your spouse you want a divorce. The timing, your spouses personality, history of violence or lack thereof, the family’s financial situation and other factors may play in to this issue.

Our Orange County divorce attorneys are ready to assist you with the legal aspects of this decision. We are one phone call or email away. Please use our contact us form at the top right of the page or simple call us for an initial consultation.

Here are some related articles we think you may enjoy:

High Asset Divorce Lawyer FAQ – planning and preparation for a divorce: In this article, we discuss some of the issues unique to high asset divorce cases, from the planning perspective of the higher income earner.

Divorce attorney fees – planning and preparation: In this article, we look at how you can plan and prepare for attorney’s fees in an Orange County divorce case.


  1. says

    There is a way of hinting about divorce without saying it outright. I would argue that if you aren’t entirely sure about divorce, go to marriage counselling first. The only time you shouldn’t warn anybody about divorce is, as you quite rightly say, when you are threatened with violence.

    • says

      Marriage counseling is a good alternative and we have written about that in our blog. Common sense goes a long way in such situations but common sense can be difficult to exercise when the emotions are running hot. Thank you for reading and commenting. Hope to see you around these parts more.

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