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How to peacefully request a collaborative divorce

Initiating a divorce conversation can present a difficult challenge no one taught you about in school. You may seldom be at a loss for words, but you are not confident you can find the right things to say. Perhaps there are no right words when asking for a divorce.

You may be afraid a discussion will ignite a firestorm of painful, angry emotion. Being the one to deliver bad news feels harder than you imagined. An amicable or friendly divorce is your goal. You can do this, and you do not have to do it alone.

Prepare the stage

Timing is important. If your spouse is dealing with unusual stress at work, recovering from the flu or working on the family tax return, wait until life evens out a bit. When circumstances are better, ask a friend or family member to take the children overnight. If your marital relationship has become a battleground, try to avoid disputes before you talk. If necessary, leave and go to another room for a few minutes. Then, return and ask your spouse if you can discuss a serious issue.

Start the discussion

Use a calm voice and sit in a relaxed position. Remind yourself that this is only an introduction, so keep the conversation brief. Have an opening phrase ready—it does not need to be textbook perfect, and your spouse's reaction, whether calm or angry, is not your fault.

The main rule follow is to use "I" and not "you" sentences to minimize defensiveness. For this first talk, express that you believe it would be best to get a divorce. Keep the conversation brief. Do not discuss any details at this time. If necessary, repeat your message in a kind but firm voice. Schedule a time to discuss details when you are both calm.

Call in the experts

If your spouse is abusive, angry or stubbornly unwilling to consider a divorce, bring in help. Do not try to do this alone. Even with a willing spouse, discussions can bog down. The best solution for all concerned can be working with an attorney skilled in collaborative law from the outset.

Collaboration enables you and your spouse to bring your respective lawyers with you to meetings. A skilled collaborative attorney helps to defuse tension by creating a supportive, respectful atmosphere. The focus is to identify issues impeding your divorce. You all work together toward solutions acceptable to both sides.

These discussions can form the basis of divorce documents to file with the court. The positive results of collaboration give you the best chance of an amicable divorce without litigation. When you separate peacefully, you are better equipped to co-parent your children after the divorce without rancor or hostility.

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