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Tips For Asking Your Spouse For a Divorce

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There’s really no way to deliver bad news, no matter what the bad news is. No one wants to hear it and, depending on the news, the reaction can run the gamut from anger to hurt to shock and despair.
Telling your spouse you want a divorce is one of the hardest things you’ll probably do in your life, especially if your spouse is not expecting it.

Our clients have reported a range of responses from their spouses when introducing the topic of divorce. It can be surprising for some spouses who were unaware of any issues in the marriage. Sometimes, a spouse lives on cruise control, unaware that the other party is no longer on board in the marriage. A spouse caught unaware by the news can run the gamut of reactions, from reasonable to wrathful. Few people like negative surprises. A few fortunate spouses find the request is not unexpected; the other spouse has already seen signs the marital ship is sinking.

In most cases, however, spouses may have already noticed signs of trouble or this has been a prior conversation which make this topics less of a shock. In either case, it’s important to handle the situation with care and sensitivity.

Based on the experiences of our past clients and our team, we’ve put together a collection of tips to help navigate this difficult conversation. These insights can provide guidance and support during this challenging time.

End-of-the-line shock

Marriages can be strange. Sometimes, a spouse lives on cruise control, unaware that the other party is no longer on board in the marriage. The worst-case scenario is catching your mate by surprise. It hurts to see an unsuspecting spouse’s devastation when a request for divorce blows up the person’s belief you are both happily sailing on smooth waters.

A spouse caught unaware by the news can run the gamut of reactions, from reasonable to wrathful. Few people like negative surprises. A few fortunate spouses find the request is not unexpected; the other spouse has already seen signs the marital ship is sinking

Petrelli Previtera, LLC, offers tips to help you ask your spouse for a divorce.

ask for divorce


  • Be prepared. You know your spouse the best and how he or she will take the news, so be prepared for his or her reaction. Choose your words carefully in this difficult time. You may even want to write out what you’ll say, and even reading it can help. Furthermore, a professional counselor can help you tailor the words as well as help you with your tumultuous feelings. Ending a marriage is difficult, so take your time.
  • Timing. Telling your spouse you want a divorce after your son just won the state wrestling title is probably not the best idea. Similarly, if your spouse just lost his or her mother or just got laid off from work, dropping another bomb on him or her can be absolutely devastating. Choose a time when you’ll have time to talk without interruptions, so get a babysitter if need be. Don’t rush this, and don’t walk away. Your spouse deserves your explanation and reasons.
  • Understanding. Do not announce your divorce in an angry tone, yet at the same time, be firm. You want your spouse to understand this is a firm decision. The last thing you want to do is waffle. Your spouse may be in shock, so another time to meet may be needed as well. This first conversation is to announce the news. You’ll have lots of time to iron out the details, which hopefully your divorce attorneys will handle most of.
  • Don’t place blame. Likely the reason for your divorce is not all one-sided. Do not attack your spouse or blame him or her for the divorce. Approach it matter-of-factly and as a process to get through. Stick with “I” and not “you”. The last thing you want is a fight. Odds are, both of you were unhappy in the marriage. Acknowledging your mutual unhappiness is one way to change your spouse’s perspective and not lay blame on anyone.
  • Leave the details to your divorce attorneys. If your spouse is amicable and ready for a divorce, he or she may even start discussing the terms of a divorce settlement. Avoid diving into details; leave that to your divorce attorney such as Petrelli Previtera, LLC. You don’t want to get stuck in a sticky situation by agreeing to things you didn’t want to out of guilt when you dropped the news.
  • Have a coping strategy in place. As we discussed in a previous blog post, a divorce is full of emotional turmoil. Having a support system in place, such as therapists, good friends and families, and a plan can make a world of difference in your emotional state as well.

Looking for more Information? Download our FREE Guide “How To Tell Your Spouse You Want a Divorce?”

There is really no good way to tell someone who you’ve shared years with (sometimes over half your life with) that you no longer want to be with them. This news is the ultimate form of rejection and feeling of failure some people will ever have to deal with.Asking a spouse for divorce can be one of the most stressful questions in life. No matter how you ask, it may be hard to gauge the other person’s reaction. It could range from peaceful acceptance to full-on rage.

Continuing on this journey, let’s delve deeper into a few more essential tips that can aid you in navigating the challenging process of asking for a divorce. These considerations are designed to ensure the conversation stays as respectful and peaceful as possible, minimizing stress and potential conflict.

She says: How to ask your husband for a divorce

Remember, you are about to deliver news of a death: your marriage is dead in the water, and you both need to abandon ship. While no “expert” can guarantee a peaceful outcome, a softer approach can succeed where aggression fails. You may want to try effective methods:

  • State your divorce request clearly, simply and briefly.
  • Use “I” words so your husband hears your feelings, not your accusations.
  • Make it clear that you are not ready to discuss the details yet.
  • Let him know you are open to marital counseling or mediation through your attorney.
  • In a calm, kind voice, tell your spouse you want a fair and equitable divorce.
  • Assure him that, while no one gets everything they want, you are ready to compromise.
  • Keep the discussion brief, and invite him to take some time to adjust to the idea.

He says: How to ask your wife for a divorce

Often, divorce plunges women into poverty; your wife’s first reaction may be fear:

  • Assure her you will generously share your time and fairly divide marital resources.
  • Offer to support her in the difficult task of finding a better career or going back to school.
  • Suggest you want to maintain a positive relationship and avoid litigation.
  • Ask if she would meet together with your attorney for mediation instead of a traditional divorce.
  • Give her your word you will reliably and consistently pay alimony and child support.
  • While the marriage is over for you, suggesting marital counseling could ease acceptance.

Show your spouse you are firmly committed to respect, fairness and willingness to compromise so both of you can retain an amicable relationship, particularly when you will be co-parents for years to come.

Related Resources: Navigating Divorce Planning, Preparation, and Complex Issues

Petrelli Previtera, LLC offers a comprehensive suite of resources to support you through the challenging journey of divorce. We understand the complexities involved and provide practical guidance on divorce laws, debunking myths, and exploring various approaches such as peaceful divorce through mediation or handling high-conflict situations, including divorcing a narcissist. Our mission is to bring our clients from chaos to clarity during this transformative period.

Also, find related topics for Self-Care During Divorce, including the Emotional Toll of Divorce and strategies for coping, and read tips for managing Fatigue During a Divorce and maintaining your well-being. We also have interpersonal tips for navigating the challenges of Divorcing a Narcissist and addressing the Impact of Divorce on Children and safeguarding their emotional health. Please note the information provided here is for general purposes and should not replace professional legal advice. Each situation is unique, and we encourage you to seek personalized guidance from our attorneys.

Petrelli Previtera, LLC are family law attorneys helping our clients navigate the legal field of dissolution of marriage, leaving them to spend their energy on more important things like dealing with the emotional side of a divorce. We support clients with child custody and child support if children are involved in your divorce. There are many legal steps to a divorce. Let the divorce attorney handle all of this for you.

Contact Petrelli Previtera, LLC today to schedule a consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting you through your divorce, offering advice and a path towards a brighter future post-divorce.

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Here's what our clients have to say about working with us. Please note, results may vary based on individual circumstances.

Melinda Previtera, Esq. came highly recommended to our family. Her knowledge base, professionalism, and compassion paved the way for a successful outcome. Melinda is efficient, detailed, and informative. She helps manage expectations, and postures her client for a fair and equitable result. We are happy to recommend Melinda!

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My marriage life has been a hell for me for the past four years until I decided to put an end to what has to be ended. Choosing a lawyer was another additional stressful part of the long process. I’m so glad that I’ve found the right one for me at Petrelli Previtera. Life isn’t always fair, but at least having her in my corner, felt even better. I couldn’t recommend her highly enough!

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