Best Ways to Tell Family and Friends You're Getting Divorced


Depending on your divorce, you may have embarked on one of the most difficult emotional journeys of your life. While you know that you'll come out just fine on the other side, getting to that finish line can take a toll. Remember: You don't have to do this alone. You are surrounded by people in your life who care and want to be there for you.

As you share your news with those closest to you, you're likely going to hear the words: "Let me know if there's anything I can do to help." That offer isn't a cop-out. (Although it would probably feel better if they could understand what you need without you having to speak up.) Nevertheless, we like to think of those words as a request in disguise: I need you to tell me what I can do to help you because I'm not sure what you need, and I don't want to overstep my boundaries.

Sometimes, the hardest part is letting those people know how to help. The best way you can help others help you is to think in advance about what you want and need so you can communicate that upfront when you tell people about your divorce. (Yes, you can ask for support! After all, you've probably been there for your loved ones a thousand times over.)

We have a few ideas on how to kickstart that conversation.  

Navigating the conversation

You and your spouse have decided to divorce. And depending on the circumstances, you’re both dealing with it in your own way. At the very least, it’s sad for both of you. At worst, it can be rage-provoking, soul-wrenching, and downright terrifying.

Your friends and family may or may not have known about your problems or the possibility that you were even considering ending the relationship. Regardless of how much they knew or not, sharing this decision can make you feel exposed and vulnerable. You’re setting yourself up for judgment, friends taking sides, and ripple effects across your whole family. You may feel like a failure and like your bruised heart is out there for everyone to see. 

Disclosing a divorce is the ultimate unmasking. You’re sharing deeply personal information, hoping it will be met with compassion and understanding. When it does come, how do you accept that compassion with grace? What can you do when the understanding you’d hoped for doesn’t come? And what if you just don’t want to talk about it with others right now and simply want some privacy? 

How do you share this innately personal information in a way that best supports what you need and leaves an open invitation for others who want to support you, too? Let us offer a little bit of guidance.

Decide what kind of support you want

Everyone is different. You might wear your heart on your sleeve, or maybe you prefer to keep your emotions to yourself. Knowing how much you want to share and what kind of help you need or are willing to accept is the first step to getting the support you want.

Think about the following areas:


  • At the end of a long day, how would you be happiest to hear from someone? An email? A tag in a social media post? A surprise phone call? An old-fashioned letter?
  • How often do you enjoy hearing from people? Weekly? Once a month? How much is too much?


  • Identify at least three things that you'd be comfortable with a nearby friend or family member taking off your plate. Picking up the kids from soccer practice? A free hour of babysitting? Dropping off dinner? A discount coupon to their favorite meal prep service? A surprise visit with a bottle of wine and a box of tissues? Have three concrete actions on hand that you know would truly help you, and you'll be ready to suggest at least one of those actions the moment your loved one asks what they can do to help.
  • Can your loved ones help you share the news so you don't have to have the same conversation again and again? This is a great way to have close family and friends help you. Just be sure you let them know what you'd like them to say and how they should respond if extended loved ones want to reach out or help.


  • Think about the boundaries you want to set. If you have a friend or family member who might go overboard in responding with helpfulness, it's better to set boundaries from the moment you share the news rather than having a difficult conversation down the road in an already difficult time.
  • Think about how often you plan to communicate about your divorce. Let people know you'll keep them updated as events progress, or let them know you'll be in touch when the divorce is final. Words like these signal to your loved ones how often they should expect to hear updates from you.

Decide who needs to know your news and when

Telling others about your divorce will require some thoughtful planning. You don't have to tell everyone at once, and there will be those who really don’t need to know at all right now. 

Think about the groups of people in your life. Who needs to know now? Who would you prefer to share the news with later? Deciding who needs to know, when, and how you’ll tell them will help you control the message when you're ready to communicate your news. 

What will your approach be?

Once you decide who you’ll tell, decide what you'll say to them. For instance, if you and your spouse can work together, telling important people in your lives together sets the stage for privacy and respectful responses. Even if you can’t manage to approach people together, you can convey a consistent message to help you control the narrative and reduce rumors.

Begin with your closest family and friends 

Telling those closest to you first sets you up with a supportive group who can be there for you when you need it most. These people can also share your news respectfully with extended family and a broader audience to reduce the number of people you’ll have to tell directly.

You don’t have to give too much information

When sharing with others, you don’t have to provide much personal information. Keep your details brief. You can decide on something generic, saying you’ve made the difficult decision to divorce, but both of you believe it’s the best choice. End of story.

Be prepared for different reactions

No matter how you think someone will react, they might just surprise you. Let them react and process the news in whatever way they need. 

Emphasize continuity, especially when kids are involved

Emphasize to close family and friends that despite the divorce, you’re still a family, and your focus will be to keep your divorce as harmonious as possible. 

Be ready for your disclosure to impact your relationships

No matter how well-prepared you think you are or how well you think you know people in your social circle, your divorce will impact these relationships in ways you can’t fathom. 

Some mutual friends might feel divided and take sides. Conversely, other friendships and family bonds might become stronger and more supportive by your news. You may have asked your spouse or others to respect your boundaries, give you some emotional space, or refrain from spreading rumors, but at the end of the day, people will be people, and you can’t control what they say or do. 

Who should you tell about your divorce?

Close family and friends

  • Your children: They will be impacted most, and they have a right to hear about your divorce directly from you. Keeping them informed and in the loop helps assure them that everything will be okay in the end. And, keeping them informed of your plans to communicate with others can help you stay in control of the message (when it gets out, and to whom). While it's usually best to plan and time what you say with your spouse, that's not always possible. Remember, you can't control everything your spouse does or says, but you can be mindful of what you tell your kids. Be loving and consistent. Remind them that you are OK and they will be, too. They will absolutely get the message.
  • Your parents and grandparents: If you're close with this audience, telling them sooner rather than later is a given. If you're not, think about how you'd feel if they heard the news from someone other than you because, as word gets out, this is likely to happen.
  • Extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins): Will you see members of this audience at upcoming holidays or birthdays? They'll definitely notice if your spouse is not in the room.
  • Your close friends: They might be the first group you tell, before anyone else. Make sure they know how much or how little they should share in case they are approached by someone else in your circle.

Extended family and friends: Broaching the subject 

  • Mutual friends with whom you'd like to remain friends: Divorce will change the way you interact with mutual friends, but it doesn't have to end it. Let your mutual friends know that you want to stay in their lives and plan to keep them in yours. Let them know you expect them to remain friendly with your ex as well. If you need to take a "break" from some of them, that's okay, too.
  • Parents of your children's friends: Depending on your relationship with your soon-to-be ex, you might need to let the parents of your children's friends know about your situation. This could help avoid awkwardness or miscommunication about play dates or shared rides to and from extracurricular activities.

Professional life: Informing work colleagues

Telling your boss and work colleagues about your divorce will require striking a balance between your personal and professional life. Here, you’ll be navigating professional boundaries and asking for work-related support while still imparting sensitive personal information. 

  • Your boss or direct reports: Schedule a private meeting when neither of you will feel rushed so your conversation won't be interrupted. Be honest and professional without getting too personal. Let them know if you will need to be out of the office frequently for mediation or court proceedings or will need other adjustments to your workload or schedule. If so, suggest some possible solutions that could minimize any impact this could have on your projects or team. Reaffirm that you’re committed to your work and intend to manage your divorce with as little disruption to your work life as possible.
  • Your colleagues: Not every work colleague needs to know about your divorce. Consider telling only the people you work directly with or those who might be affected by any changes in your workload and schedule. Keep it simple, and add that you appreciate their understanding, support, and discretion. 

You’ll also want to find ways to best manage any changes in your work duties caused by your divorce. Evaluate everything on your plate. Prioritize essential duties, and keep an eye on your performance so your divorce doesn’t have a damaging effect on your productivity. 

You might want to reach out to your boss about postponing or delegating less critical work, if possible. Have a reliable and trusted work colleague as support who can be there for you or cover for you if necessary.  

Initial reactions and how to handle them

There’s no way you’ll be able to anticipate how everyone will react to your news. You can expect reactions from shock, sadness, or even judgment, depending on your relationship with them and their own beliefs. Remember that how they react is most probably more about them than you. 

You have little control over how they’ll perceive your life anyway, so try not to take negative responses personally. 

Responding with empathy

In most cases, you’ll get responses of concern and care. But these might venture into conversations you’re not ready to have right now. You can respond in ways that don't diminish their kindness and support yet keep your need for privacy and boundaries intact. 

  • Acknowledge a concerned reaction. For instance, you can say “I appreciate your concern. It was definitely a difficult decision, but we know it’s the best choice.” You’ve acknowledged their caring response but kept details out of the equation. 
  • Redirect the conversation when someone presses for more information. For instance, you can respond, “This has been a very personal matter for us and I’m not really comfortable discussing details right now. Thank you for understanding.”
  • If their response feels defensive, accept the responsibility for your needs by using some well-conceived “I” statements. For instance, “I just need some time to process all these changes right now. But I really appreciate your understanding and support.”
  • Deflect well-intentioned (and not so well-intentioned) unsolicited advice. You may find that judgment and advice you didn’t ask for have begun to push your boundaries. And yet, you probably don’t want to get embroiled in a debate. You might just say, “I know you, and I see it differently, but we didn’t make this decision lightly. We really believe we’ve made the right decision for us.”

Reinforcing your boundaries

After your divorce, you might find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to reinforce your boundaries. This can feel like a delicate balance, especially with people you care about. As gently as possible, be clear about what you’re willing and not willing to discuss. 

If someone repeatedly tries to cross that boundary, you might need to cut them off with a firm, “Let’s talk about something else, shall we?”

Develop a plan to share your news

Now's the time to break out the pen and paper. You've already thought about what you need in terms of support and who needs to know your news (and when). Next question: How will you tell close friends and family about your divorce? Some people in your life are appropriate to email. Others require a phone call. For still others, it may be best to send a handwritten letter.

In general: 

Communication Method

Best for:

Face to Face

Suitable for those who will be most impacted emotionally and those most directly impacted on a day-to-day basis by your divorce and proceedings. This includes your children, possibly your parents, and possibly your boss/team at work.

Phone Call

Appropriate for those whom you can’t sit down with due to distance. Helpful for those who will have several questions; the questions will be easier to answer at once rather than back and forth over email.

Handwritten Letter

If you know the news will be hard for the person to take and want to make sure they truly digest and process what you say, a handwritten letter can help.


Appropriate for those who need to know the news but whom you do not want to engage with in extended dialogue. An email lets you 1) tell your news, 2) set boundaries upfront, 3) let people know you are open to help (if you are), and 4) set expectations about when you will share updates about the status of your divorce.

Social Media

This may work if you want to tell everyone in your world at once. Use caution with this method, though. Consider blocking comments on your post so you aren’t prompted to answer questions you’re not ready to answer in a large forum.

Crafting your message: What to say and how to say it 

Now, it’s time to consider what you’ll say. 

Crafting a message that’s clear and avoids blame can help these conversations go as smoothly and constructively as possible. Your message will be different depending on who you’re telling. Consider using some of the following options. 

  • Telling your children: “Your mom/dad and I want you to know that we’ve tried very hard to be happy together, but it hasn’t been working. We’ve made the very difficult decision to divorce. This is about us, not you, and we want you to know that our love for you will never change.”
  • Telling your parents: “[Spouse’s name] and I have decided to divorce. It’s been a tough time, and we’ve thought a lot about our options. We’ve come to this decision mutually, and we believe it’s the best step forward for both of us. We appreciate any understanding and support you can give us right now.” 
  • Telling close friends: “I have some really difficult news.[Spouse’s name] and I are getting a divorce, and I thought you should know. I really value your friendship and hope this doesn’t change anything.”
  • Telling an extended family member: “Hi [name], I just wanted to reach out and tell you that [spouse] and I are divorcing. We didn’t come to this decision easily, but we believe it’s the only option that’s right for us. I just wanted you to hear it directly from me.”
  • Telling a coworker: “I wanted to share some personal news with you. I’m going through a divorce right now and just wanted you to know in case I seem a little bit “off” or emotional. Please bear with me. It’s a difficult time.”

These conversations can feel awkward, but your goal is to be honest, preserve your relationships, and encourage support while you’re navigating your divorce process.

Tips for communicating your news

  • Tell people you're open to their help during this time (if you are). This opens the window for friends and family to ask how they can help. That's when you break out your handy list of three or more ideas.
  • Tell people how you plan to communicate with them or how they should communicate with you. For example: "I'd love to hear from you, but I know you'll understand if I prefer not to talk about this difficult process on a regular basis. I'll definitely let you know if I need a shoulder to cry on! Otherwise, let's catch up on happier topics. Hearing from you every few weeks will give me a much-needed break from this process."
  • Let them know what they should or should not say to others about your news. For example: "This news is really hard for me to share, so I would actually appreciate your help in spreading the word. That will save me the pain of having to tell this story again and again." Or, "This news is hard to share, so I appreciate your confidence. I'd like to be the one to break the news to x, y, z so they hear it from me first."


My spouse had an affair. Should I tell others the “real reason” for our divorce?

This is your personal matter to share, but it’s usually best not to share the “real” reason for your divorce unless you're sharing it with your closest friends and family members. This is especially true when people might be hurt by the truth, like your kids. All other people need to know is that it was a mutual decision. Later, you can decide who needs to know more details. 

What happens if I’m really not ready to tell people about my divorce yet?

You have every right to share the news of your divorce when you feel ready. Other than your kids, your children’s school, and maybe some close friends or family members, there’s no reason for anyone else to know. Take your time to process your feelings, and then decide how and when you want to share this information. 

What if my ex is telling everybody about our divorce before I’m ready?

In a perfect world, you and your ex would have discussed coordinated approaches and respect for each other’s wishes. But, as you know, it’s not a perfect world, and there’s a reason you’re divorcing. All you can do is control your side of the narrative and share the news with your social circle when you’re ready. Unfortunately, by then, they may have already heard your ex’s side of things. 

This is your divorce. It's your news to share on your terms. But if you give your friends and family a little insight into your wishes, you'll make it easier for them to help you the way you want to be helped.

Founder, CEO & Certified Family Law Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Insights, Legal Insights
After over a decade of experience as a Certified Family Law Specialist, Mediator and law firm owner, Erin was fed up with the inefficient and adversarial “divorce corp” industry and set out to transform how consumers navigate divorce - starting with the legal process. By automating the court bureaucracy and integrating expert support along the way, Hello Divorce levels the playing field between spouses so that they can sort things out fairly and avoid missteps. Her access to justice work has been recognized by the legal industry and beyond, with awards and recognition from the likes of Women Founders Network, TechCrunch, Vice, Forbes, American Bar Association and the Pro Bono Leadership award from Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Erin lives in California with her husband and two children, and is famously terrible at board games.