In Divorce, Indecision is a Decision

Nov 30, 2012

Not making a decision is a decision.  In a divorce context, not making a decision about how you want to resolve alimony, child support, equitable distribution and custody issues is a decision to let your spouse decide how that will happen.  And, it is frequently a decision to go to court, whether you intended that or not.

Take this common scenario:  A Wife (or Husband) tells her Husband (or Wife) that she wants a divorce, and suggests that they use the collaborative process because it will protect the kids and their finances.

In some cases, the Husband’s reaction is to do nothing, and not make a decision on how to proceed.  Essentially, stonewalling. 

Sometimes this happens because people think that the divorce won’t happen if they don’t participate. They think, “If I don’t pick a process, then a divorce cannot or will not happen”.  The truth is that it will happen with or without them. But, it will happen in a public courtroom instead of a private conference room.   And, the parties will have lost most, if not all influence over the process and outcomes for their children and their financial lives. 

Other people in this situation think that agreeing to a process means that they are agreeing with the divorce.  That causes them to avoid choosing a process as a means of voicing their protest of their spouse’s decision to be divorced.  This is a self-defeating approach.  It is possible, and very common, to both disagree with the divorce and participate in the collaborative divorce process. 

Many people operate under the false belief that they have to agree to a divorce.  In North Carolina, a party can obtain a divorce without their spouse’s consent.    So, if your spouse tells you that they want a divorce, they can get one whether you agree or not.  You might be able to delay it, but you cannot prevent it. 

Further, failing to choose a divorce process forces the other spouse to go to court.  A courtroom divorce process is the only process that one party can force the other into.  So, if one spouse refuses to choose collaborative divorce, mediation or another process, then the other spouse has no choice but to seek the help of a court.  Therefore, refusing to make a decision is often a decision to go to court.  That option is typically the opposite of what both spouses wanted. 

So, if your spouse has told you that they want a divorce, then you need to investigate your process options.  And then you need to participate in choosing a process.  If you don’t, you will be making an unintentional decision, and that may well be choosing a battle in court.  

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