A decision to divorce, ideally, is mutual. But most often, initially, it is not. Yet one spouse must be the one to initiate the discussion. If you’re that initiating spouse, then this is for you. If you are not, this blog is also for you. It is important for both spouses to be fully educated about all of the important considerations when approaching a possible divorce, including considerations about the law, financial considerations, all considerations related to children, and overall, how a divorce process can impact on your everyday life. We’ll cover two specific areas: factual information and emotional intelligence. Your attorney can help you plan for this conversation.

On the factual side you’ll need to know about financial, legal, practical and procedural aspects of what you’re undertaking. Divorce is a big step and it’s best to be fully informed going into the conversation. Educate yourself, if you don’t know, about the assets, liabilities and cash flow for your family. If financial matters are something you’ve left to your spouse, your lawyer can help you approach these areas.

It is very important to first know and understand the different process options that are available for you and your spouse to achieve a Separation Agreement and divorce. There are pros and cons to each option and any good matrimonial attorney will educate you on the process options from the first meeting. This attorney can also guide you in how to talk to your spouse about the various out-of-court options there are as well as in-court litigation.

From a practical perspective, consider physical safety as well as financial welfare. If you have concerns about your own or your children’s safety, be sure to discuss them with your lawyer before initiating a divorce discussion with your spouse. If you have concerns that when you raise the subject of divorce, your spouse may limit or eliminate your financial resources, or create financial chaos, then more planning with an experienced matrimonial attorney should take place before having this discussion with your spouse.

Implicit in the above is the importance of choosing a good divorce attorney. This applies to your spouse as well as to you. If you both plan to hire attorneys, your counsel choices can make a big difference in how long the process takes, how much it costs, whether both lawyers will support a respectful and amicable process or whether they will encourage litigation, which in turn increases expense, often needlessly.

In a conversation to broach the idea of divorce with your spouse, timing is everything. The best and most productive conversations about divorce are not born in the heat of the moment.

The location of your conversation may be important too. If you have children, be sure that they are not present or within earshot. Part of the conversation should be about when and how to tell your children together and agree on a shared message.

Common sense says be kind. Imagine yourself in your spouse’s shoes – no one likes surprises. While you yourself may have been thinking of separating for some time and may have processed many of the emotions that come with this life transition, your spouse may not. He or she may need time to process what’s said, and the two of you can agree to have further conversation(s).

Be sensitive. Avoid pressing your spouse’s emotional buttons and making him or her feel cornered or pinned against the wall – nothing good comes from that. You both want to feel safe in this process, and you can start establishing that security with this conversation. Talk about the hope and intent that it be respectful and amicable and for the two of you to proceed in the most financially responsible way.

If you’re not confident about your ability to initiate this pivotal conversation, you can ask your lawyer to help you prepare for that it, and to review the options you have to open this discussion with your spouse. Getting divorced is one of life’s biggest transitions for you and your family. How this first conversation and subsequent conversations go with your spouse can have a decisive effect on the entire divorce process. It can dictate not only how the process starts but also how it ends, and just as important, the financial and emotional impact on you and your family to get there.