My Partner Has Asked for a Divorce – What Should I Do?

Posted on August 22, 2022 by Donna Nguyen - Family Lawyer

Team member Donna Nguyen.

Donna Nguyen - Family Lawyer

Donna is a family law solicitor admitted in the Supreme Court of New South Wales with a double degree in Business and Law. Donna is drawn to family law as she is interested in helping clients during a difficult and transitional period following separation. She strives to achieve the best outcome for her clients and has their best interest at the forefront of her advice.

Divorce is often a difficult subject to talk about. If you’ve recently separated from your spouse, you’re thinking of getting a divorce, or you’ve just been asked for a divorce, then chances are that you’re feeling emotionally exhausted and most likely somewhat overwhelmed right now.

Even if you’re not overly shocked by the breakdown of your relationship or your spouse’s request for a divroce, hearing them say the words can be confronting. On top of this, the divorce (and separation) process can still cause a lot of confusion and can leave you unsure of what you need to and should do next.

To help guide you through this difficult time, we’ve put together some tips and information about what you should do if divorce may be on the cards.

First, let’s take a deeper look at some statistics about divorce.

How common is divorce in Australia?

While most people don’t enter into a marriage anticipating that it is going to end in the future, divorce might be a lot more common than you realise.

In 2019, there were 49,116 divorces that were granted in Australia, which equates to a crude divorce rate (the number of divorces per 1,000 Australian residents) of 1.9. This is one of the lowest divorce rates of the last 50 years, however the marriage rate has also declined, with only 113,815 marriages registered in 2019.

It is believed that the pandemic and recession may be causes of a potential rise in separations and divorces in the coming years. The Separation Guide recorded statistics of a 314% increase in the number of couples thinking about separation during lockdown in 2021.

Though divorce may be somewhat common, if it becomes a topic of conversation in your relationship, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your relationship will result in divorce. For some people, this might be a way to start talking about problems in the marriage.

cartoon image married couple splitting up

Why do couples get divorced?

There are many different reasons as to why a marriage may end in divorce. The Australian Institute of Family Studies categorises the common reasons for divorce as being either affective reasonsabusive behaviours or external pressures. These are defined below as:

Affective Reasons – these are reasons that have more of an emotional basis – such as difficulties in communicating effectively and incompatibility with one another. These sorts of issues can lead to infidelity, which is also a common reason for divorce.

Abusive Behaviours – these include behavioural issues, where one spouse may impact the mental and/or physical well-being of the other spouse or family members including children, through certain behaviours. This can include physical, verbal and emotional abuse, as well as substance abuse (alcohol and drugs).

External Pressures – these are factors that are outside the personal relationship between the spouses that could put pressure on and impact their relationship. Some of these factors include work, physical and/or mental health, family and in-laws, and financial stress.

For many couples, there isn’t one clear-cut reason for their divorce, rather it’s as a result of a combination of some of these factors we have mentioned above, as well as potentially many other reasons.

What should I do if my partner has asked me for a divorce?

If your spouse has asked you for a divorce, you’re most likely going to be feeling a wide range of emotions. Any discussion around divorce can be deeply upsetting, even if you’ve anticipated this topic coming up or if you think it’s the right thing to do. While it may be difficult, it’s important to stay calm and act rationally.

Here are some of our recommendations if you find yourself in this situation.

1. Do not overreact – try to talk to them instead

When your partner asks you for a divorce you may feel angry or extremely upset. While that’s completely normal, try not to let these emotions control your actions or behaviour.

As we mentioned earlier, talking about divorce is rarely easy, and for some people, airing their thoughts and wants regarding a separation or divorce can also take a lot of time. This might be something they have been contemplating for a while. It might also be their way to voice that they think the relationship needs work in order to be able to move forward successfully.

The key takeaway is that as difficult as it may feel, it’s important to talk about it. While you may not be ready to talk right away, try to keep the lines of communication open so that you can discuss it further once you’ve had some time to think about it.

If you and your spouse can discuss the reasons behind each of your thinking, then it might make it clear that you’re both willing to work on the relationship or it may help you both to realise that divorce is the best option for you both.

cartoon image couple in a therapy

2. Respect your spouse

Even if you do not want the divorce or you’re feeling hurt and angry, respecting your spouse’s opinion and decision is still important.

Try to give them some space and time to think about things. It may help for you to try to go about your normal day to day life and routine, and to let them do the same.

If you’ve been able to successfully talk to them and keep the communication lines open, your spouse may come back to you with questions, thoughts and concerns too.

If your partner is willing to try counselling or couples therapy, you could proceed with that. Or if they think that moving out of the home and separating is the best option for them, allow them that opportunity.

People can change their minds at any point of the separation and divorce process. If your spouse moves out, they may realise that that is not what they wanted after all, and perhaps if they do move out, you might realise that the separation is the right option for you.

It’s important to respect yourself as well, which can feel difficult if you don’t want the divorce, but ensuring you’re taking care of yourself and your responsibilities can make the challenge of moving forward a lot easier.

3. Try not to feel alone

Going through a divorce or separation can feel like your world is imploding and be an isolating experience.

It may be tempting to hide yourself away from the world, however it’s important to try to continue moving forward. Keeping yourself busy, whether it’s with work, activities or spending time with friends and family may help.

Talking to a professional counsellor or therapist may provide you with a safe and confidential outlet for you to air your thoughts and feelings, or you may find solace and comfort in a local support group for people who have been or are currently going through a separation or divorce.

While we recommend talking to someone about how you’re feeling and your circumstances, we also suggest talking to someone who is not too close to the situation as this can put them in an uncomfortable position too.

4. Start your education

If you do separate and end up divorcing from your partner, there are going to be a lot of things that need to be sorted out and decisions that need to be made regarding your future – especially if you have children under the age of 18.

Even if you don’t want a divorce or you think that it is unlikely that divorce will be the end result, it’s so important to start educating yourself so you can make an informed decision.

It can be common for people to bury their head in the sand, believing that if they ignore the conversation, then a divorce will not happen. If the divorce does end up happening, you might find yourself overwhelmed with the volume of decisions that you need to make and a lot less time to understand everything.

Taking the time to learn about the divorce process and the various things you may need to make decisions about will put you in a better position if a divorce occurs.

cartoon image married couple talking about the divorce

5. Talk to a divorce lawyer

You don’t need to be separated or going through the divorce process to talk to a lawyer about your situation. A lawyer can provide advice and guidance at any point of the journey and can be a great way for you to educate yourself, and ultimately take control of the situation.

In Australia, you’re not required to engage with a lawyer in order to get divorced, but it can be one of the best things you do. An experienced divorce lawyer can provide you with the correct and accurate information regarding your rights, responsibilities and obligations from a legal perspective. They can also provide you with potential options and information that you may not be aware of.

Divorce looks different in every circumstance, so having someone who not only understands the divorce process but who also acts in the best interests of their client and in the best interest of the children, is worth having in your corner. They can make a highly emotional and stressful situation much easier to navigate.

What if I don’t want to get divorced?

Many of the divorces that happen in Australia occur because one person in the marriage wants the change.

In Australia, there is a no-fault divorce systemThis means that in order for a couple to get divorced, they do not need to prove that one party to the relationship was at fault for the relationship breakdown. One of the legal requirements for getting a divorce is that before you can apply for a divorce in Australia, you must have been separated for a period of at least 12 months.

For a separation to occur, the decision to separate needs to be made, which involves ensuring that your spouse is aware that you’re making a decision to separate. While many people live separately during their separation, everyone’s circumstances are different, and some couples may choose to continue living together under the same roof through their separation. You can learn more about living together while separated here.

After the 12-month separation period has been completed, a divorce application can be filed. Even if you do not want a divorce but your spouse does, they can still apply for a divorce through a Sole Application for Divorce.   If you do agree to the divorce, then you can file a joint application. You can learn more about applying for divorce here.

Unified Lawyers can help

Whether you’re contemplating a separation and want to know your legal rights or you’re already in the process of a divorce, here at Unified Lawyers, we can help you.

Our team specialises in the divorce and separation and can guide you to ensure that you’re making informed decisions about your future.

Call us today for a free consultation on 1800 431 519.

Team member Donna Nguyen.

Donna Nguyen - Family Lawyer

Donna is a family law solicitor admitted in the Supreme Court of New South Wales with a double degree in Business and Law. Donna is drawn to family law as she is interested in helping clients during a difficult and transitional period following separation. She strives to achieve the best outcome for her clients and has their best interest at the forefront of her advice.

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