How do you decide to divorce?

Are you in limbo?

You’re not happy with your life and your marriage but you don’t know whether divorce is the answer. Is this you? How do you decide to divorce? is a question that many women ask.

You’re not alone. On average, marriages last around 12 years before divorce – many much longer. My own research revealed that divorce is on women’s minds for an average of five years before they take action. That’s a lot of people living with unhappiness for a long time.

But it makes sense to look before you leap. Divorce is a big deal, emotionally, practically and financially.

This blog is here to help you work out if divorce is the right decision for you now, and what to do in those early stages.

Know you’re ready

It’s a mistake to trigger divorce on the back of a single argument or bad mood. If you’ve had a row with your spouse and want to consider your options – do that. Sit with it for a while. Open communication channels. But don’t jump into divorce just yet.

There are usually* four preconditions that suggest you’re ready for divorce:

  • You’ve been feeling this way for a while, even when circumstances at home are fairly settled. This isn’t a flash reaction to a period of stress or crisis. You’ve thought about it and you’re being honest with yourself.
  • You can accept the consequences and are willing to move forward. Divorce will mean change, it will mean disruption and it will mean making some decisions. If you can take responsibility for your part, it’s a sign you’re ready.
  • You can be open and honest: you can be honest with yourself about your feelings, you’re no longer kidding yourself. And you can be honest with your spouse about your feelings, and ready to listen to their perspective, even if it’s difficult.
  • You recognise difference: it’s not about blaming your spouse, it’s simply about getting to a situation where you’ll be happier (and so will they, most likely, even if they can’t admit it yet).

*note the situation is different if you’re in a high conflict relationship. In that case, the same rules don’t apply and you need to focus on keeping yourself safe and establishing boundaries, not inviting open conversation. See my blog ‘Am I in a high conflict divorce?’ for more.

If you are at the ‘is this worth exploring’ stage, I go into more depth here.

Make the right emotional decision

A big decision like divorce calls for the right headspace. It’s not something to be taken lightly. It’s a decision to be made calmly, not in panic or fury. Which is hard when you’re dealing with swirling emotions, I know.

It’s hard when:

  • You’re mad at your spouse
  • You’re confused about what’s for the best
  • You feel guilt or shame
  • You don’t want to hurt your children
  • You’re feeling low and just want life to be different.

Give yourself time. Give yourself space. It is ok to do nothing right now. It’s ok to sit with it for a while. Use a journal, talk to a friend (or me!), think about your values and priorities.  Let your emotions settle. If you’d like some guidance finding in calm and clarity so you make a decision you can trust, my guide ‘Seven Simple Steps’ can help you. 

Equip yourself on divorce basics

If you think divorce is right for you, the next step is to get tooled up.

The next step definitely ISN’T to call round the divorce lawyers – and here’s why! Read the blog and save thousands!

Here are some things you can do instead:

  • Get your hands on a copy of How To Be A Lady Who Leaves. This is my Amazon bestseller, and of course I’m going to recommend it, I wrote it! But in the words of one reader, ‘Emma’s book is a crash course in divorce. All you need to know but were afraid to ask’.  The book takes you through the whole legal process, explains your options and shares what you need to do to keep you rather than your solicitor or your soon-to-be-ex in the driving seat. By far your cheapest way of getting the legal and practical information you need in one place.
  • Call in support. I’m talking about emotional and practical support here. Surround yourself with people who will have your back, who will look out for you. People who will keep you company when you’re feeling down, take the children for a while if you need a break, or sympathise over a bottle of wine. People you trust.
  • Also look at getting the right, impartial, legal support. You can find sources of free support on my website. I also help women at this early stage – even if you’re still weighing up whether divorce is the right option for you. Contact me to book in a call.
  • Gather your information and resources. You will need to have a clear picture on your financial situation, including the assets and liabilities you have individually and shared with your soon-to-be-ex. If you’ve left finances and household management to your ex, now’s the time to start getting clued up. Locate your paperwork – you have a right to it.

Is divorce the right step for you now?

So you’ve thought about it, you’re able to look reality in the eye and you’re ready to face a future independent from your soon-to-be-ex.

Here’s a checklist to help you know for sure you’re doing the right thing:

  • You are ready to take action
  • You know what’s important to you
  • It’s not about blame
  • You are able to take responsibility for your own actions
  • You have thought about it calmly, not only when stressed
  • You’ve thought about a support network
  • You’ve looked into the reality of what’s involved
  • The thought of life after divorce is liberating.

If that looks and sounds like you, watch out for my podcast, launching later this Spring, where you’ll find practical tips on divorce that place you firmly in the driving seat.

This is your time. No shame, no guilt, just confident action leading to a brighter future. You’re not on your own.

The Divorce Alchemist

Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is author of the Amazon best selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a practising family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self study and group programmes. Emma is featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. To find out more visit

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