Do I have to tell my spouse?
No. Technically you can wait until your spouse is served with divorce papers, and have the papers do the telling. It may be considered bad form in most cases — except for abuse — not to have a conversation, however. Although your behavior towards your spouse isn’t strictly relevant to the Oklahoma court’s divorce decisions, it could affect how aggressively your spouse responds. If the Oklahoma family court judge hears a series of details suggesting you are of poor character or acted unfairly, the judge could rule against you in matters such as spousal support (where the judge is allowed to consider “any factors the court deems just and equitable”). Any perceived bullying or cruelty toward each other could be considered.
When should I tell my spouse?
It is best to tell your spouse you want a divorce after you’ve protected yourself by hiring an Oklahoma divorce attorney, organizing your financial, insurance, medical and personal information, and determining how you will live on your own.
When you decide to tell your spouse, it is advisable to avoid some common errors in this situation:
- Try to tell them before they hear it from someone else. This can help you avoid a confrontation you may not be prepared for.
- Don’t be indecisive. If you aren’t sure you want a divorce, don’t use the word “divorce.” This could trigger actions or legal moves by your spouse, which you may not be prepared for if you aren’t certain about filing for divorce.
- You don’t have to “ask” for a divorce. In Oklahoma, you have a legal right to a divorce regardless of whether your spouse consents.
- Don’t threaten to take the children or turn them against your spouse. These statements could be used against you in any future custody decision.
- Don’t argue. Arguments about who is to blame, or who is the better parent, or who deserves what property can extend into nasty, time-consuming, expensive litigation. Your effort now in lessening aggression can help you reach a fair settlement and save you money in divorce costs.
- Don’t say anything that can later be held against you. Don’t offer to give your spouse anything, or say anything negative about your own or your spouse’s parenting, etc.
- Don’t be disrespectful. At this early stage, you can’t really expect cooperation or understanding. Treating your spouse respectfully now can set a more cooperative tone for what is to come.
When should I tell my kids?
Tell them once you know for sure that you will divorce, when your spouse also knows, and when you can tell the children calmly. Tell your children before they hear it from outsiders. Your focus should be on both caring for your children, and your ability to show the Oklahoma divorce court that you have their best interests in mind. “Best interests” includes helping your children have a positive relationship with your spouse, regardless of the quality of your relationship with your spouse.
What should I tell my kids about divorce?
Experts (and your mandatory Oklahoma pre-divorce parenting class) will likely tell you the following about informing your children of your divorce:
- Plan what you will say in advance. Write it down, if you need to.
- If possible, you and your spouse should tell your children together. This shows your children that you are united in caring for them and that they do not have to take sides, one parent against the other.
- Tell your children that the divorce is only between the adults and that nobody is divorcing the children.
- Be cautious about sharing any reasons for the divorce. It is best to simply defer the question and say that it is an adult issue, or to say that “mommy and daddy couldn’t live together anymore.” This gives your children “permission” to continue loving both of you, instead of taking sides against a presumed initiator of the divorce.
- Don’t badmouth your spouse.
- Admit that divorce makes you a little sad, but try to keep your emotions in check in front of your children as much as possible. It is important that they not be put into a role of parenting you, as that is not in their best interests.
- Alert the children that some things in their lives will change after the divorce, such as where both parents live. Be specific, if you know specifics. Remind them of things that divorce will not change such as parental love, siblings, friends and pets. Children benefit by hearing concrete details and being reassured of consistency in routine.
- Anticipate much repetition. Children, especially younger kids, will ask a number of follow-up questions and need answers repeated. Be receptive and reassuring upon further questioning about the divorce.
- Be tolerant of your children’s possible emotional outbursts, behavior changes and confused loyalties as they process their feelings.
- Consider telling your children’s teachers or daycare providers, even before the divorce is filed. This can be done simply: “My spouse and I will be getting a divorce. Please let me know if my child has behavior or emotional issues that may be related to this.” Be careful in these communications to focus on your children’s welfare, rather than your desire to malign your spouse or gain sympathy.