Why You Should Stop Delaying Your Divorce and Get On with It Already

If you've been delaying your divorce or are separated from your spouse but haven't yet filed for divorce, this article is for you. You're living in limbo right now, waiting for what's next. It's not that great, is it?

People give a lot of excuses for not divorcing when they really want to:

  • It will cost so much.
  • Everything is relatively smooth right now, and I don't want to start fighting.
  • What will it do to the kids?
  • The divorce process will take forever!
  • Will I have to go to court? Hire a lawyer?

These are valid concerns. But honestly, how many times each day or week do you think about what your life could be like if you just moved forward? The truth is, there are some strong reasons to stop delaying your divorce.

Emotional baggage gets (very) heavy

The stress of delaying divorce and staying in an unhappy marriage can take a toll on your mental and physical health. Research shows that couples enduring marital stress are more likely to experience psychiatric disorders like major depression. Marital stress has also been shown to increase the risk of heart problems.

Therapist and divorce coach Emily Heird makes an important point: Staying in limbo robs you of the freedom to live a meaningful, present life and create the future you want.

"It's as though you have an anchor constantly dragging you down. You may have been in this state for so long, you don't realize how heavy that anchor is anymore. But it is causing undue stress and anxiety." – Emily

Emily compares the uncertainty of being in transition to the beginning of a relationship when we're trying to determine relationship status – which also causes anxiety and uncertainty.

Emily continues:

"The divorce itself can be scary, and yes, it is the final admission of the end of this relationship. But with the right support, you can do it relatively quickly and still preserve a relationship afterward. You will get out of limbo, have clearly defined rules and boundaries, and finally have the ability to jump into the next chapter with both feet rather than having one foot in the past and one foot in the future."

Staying in a bad marriage could put you at financial risk

Even if you have moved out or are just "taking a break" from your spouse, as long as you're married, you could be responsible for their debts. In the eyes of the government and creditors, until you file for divorce and assign debts to one spouse or the other, you are legally married and considered a joint entity.

So, if your spouse owes money on a debt they acquired after you separated, you could still be liable. You could be sued by creditors or have your wages garnished. Worse, what if you separated from your spouse and they did something foolish on a property where your name is still on the lease or property title? Like having a party with minors where someone gets hurt? You could be liable, and you could get sued. It's an extreme example, but it's just one way you could place yourself at risk by delaying divorce.

You could lose opportunities

Bad credit brought on by your spouse's behavior could also prevent you from buying property, investing in something new, or liquidating an account so you can buy something you need, like a car or house. Alternatively, if you buy that new car or house on your own while still legally married, who's to say your spouse won't claim rights to some part or interest in it once you do actually file for divorce since it was acquired during your legal marriage?

You can and should take steps to protect your finances and maintain a strong credit history before, during, and after divorce. Consumer rights lawyer Ian Lyngklip lays out several ways you can protect yourself in this article for Hello Divorce.

But while you can take steps to protect yourself, it's important to remember that until the divorce judgment is signed, you'll still be attached to your spouse in the eyes of the law.

Another example: Let's say you were to die unexpectedly. Your spouse could stand to inherit everything you own. It doesn't matter that you're separated; they're still your spouse in the eyes of the law. There are things you can do to try to prevent your spouse from inheriting everything in your unlikely demise, such as laying out your wishes in an updated will. But even that is not a guarantee that everything is sorted, and there are lots of assets that pass outside of a will, such as joint accounts.

Delaying your divorce could also mean losing access to funds you truly need

The longer you wait to file for divorce, especially if you've already separated, the harder it may be to recoup the spousal support or reimbursements you plan to request. Sure, sometimes divorce is simple: You take yours; I'll take mine. But if your situation is even a tad bit more complicated than that, the math can get tricky when it comes to accounting for joint assets. The longer that period of accounting grows, the harder it becomes to unwind who paid for what and with which funds.

If you plan to request a credit or reimbursement for funds – let's say for your share of a down payment on the marital home – you'll have to prove what you paid. Banks typically keep financial records for seven years. If you need a bank statement from seven years ago or even slightly less, it could be a hassle to get the bank to pull this information for you.

Additionally, if you used your separate funds to pay a health insurance premium or another bill on your spouse's behalf, that would be another type of reimbursement that could get tricky and harder to collect as time goes on. And finally, if you sacrificed your earnings to support your spouse in their professional endeavors, you might have a claim for spousal support. However, the longer you remain separated and not divorced, the harder it sometimes becomes to get alimony. If you were separated for a year and were able to live without spousal support during that time, why should the court suddenly rule in your favor now?

On the flip side, if you are the spouse who is more likely to pay alimony, the longer you delay legal separation and divorce, the more you might end up paying. There are several reasons for this. First, the longer the marriage, the higher the likelihood you'll have to pay (more) spousal support. Second, if you've been informally paying your spouse a lot more than they would have received under the law, you could end up having to continue paying a higher amount.

The kids are going to be fine (really and truly)

It's not the divorce itself you need to be concerned with when it comes to your kids. What matters most is how you separate. If your kids are exposed to a lot of conflict and fighting and feel uncertain about their own futures, they will have more difficulty processing this change in the family status. If you and your spouse keep things as amicable as possible, demonstrating to your kids that even though your relationship is changing, your relationship with them is not and they're still your #1, you might be surprised by their resiliency and ability to adapt. Not that it's easy ... but they will be okay.

Your unhappiness could affect your kids

Parents worry about what splitting up would do to their kids. Try flipping the question to this: What would it do to them if you were to stay together?

Only you can answer this question, of course … and it’s a hypothetical question at that. But research has shown that children living under the same roof with depressed parents can experience negative effects. And living with unhappy, arguing parents can have an emotional aftermath that lingers into adulthood.

The point is, divorce has its drawbacks for children. But in some cases, so does staying together. 

Suggested: 3 Ways Your Kid(s) Will Thrive in a Co-Parenting Relationship

FAQ about delayed divorce

We might reconcile. Is this a reason to delay the divorce?

The decision to divorce is a deeply personal one, and so is the decision to reconcile. We cannot advise you what to do in your specific case, but we can give you some things to think about as you ponder your next move.

  • Are both of you genuinely open to the possibility of reconciliation? 
  • If so, what is your action plan? Will you try a trial separation? Attend couples counseling? Do you have a professional in mind that you can work with?
  • How would an attempt at reconciliation affect your children? 
  • Would this decision have any effect on your finances? 
  • How would an attempt at reconciliation affect your emotional well-being? 
  • What are the smartest steps to take right now to maximize everyone’s mental health in the short-term and the long-term?

Could a trial separation fix our marital problems?

For some people, trial separation is a helpful tool. It can help you gain perspective on your marital problems and how life would be without your spouse in it. Time apart can bring clarity in some cases. In others, however, the time apart only delays the divorce and drags out the breaking-up process.

If you decide to try a trial separation, here are some tips for success:

Have clear objectives and goals for your time apart. What do you hope to achieve or discern? Do you need time alone to think? Do you need a chance to embark on therapy without your partner around? Do you want to dip your toe into single life to see how it feels? 

Make sure the other person understands your goals and objectives for the trial separation – and that you understand theirs. For example, if one person wants to try dating other people during the separation while the other wants to get couples therapy, the trial separation could turn into another source of conflict rather than a helping mechanism for the relationship.

Be ready for re-evaluation. When your trial separation ends, you will need to re-evaluate the situation. It is unlikely that you want to live permanently in limbo. Many couples find it easy to establish an end date for their trial separation. At that time, they agree to come together and make decisions about their next steps.

Divorce costs too much, takes too much time, and is too stressful. Is this a valid reason to stay together?

Chances are you've heard horror stories about divorcing couples: fighting, pit bull attorneys, exorbitant legal fees. But that's their divorce story, not yours. When was the last time you heard a juicy, gossipy update about someone's amicable, low-conflict divorce? Never, right?

Just like no two relationships are the same, no two divorces are the same. You and your spouse will decide how your story is written. Most couples going through a divorce want to get through the process as quickly, smoothly, and affordably as possible. And most couples who have been separated for a long time without incident or court filings end up having a smooth divorce.

That's a big reason why Hello Divorce exists

We think that the traditional "lawyer up and fight" divorce model is financially and emotionally draining and damaging. We flipped the model on its head to make you the center of your divorce, not a lawyer. Divorce is about 80% logistics, and we make that part convenient and manageable. You get your divorce forms completed quicker and easier, and you don't have to pay lawyer fees to do it.

We know that sometimes, divorce gets complicated, so we provide you the option to get expert help along the way. We just don't think it's reasonable for you to pay for it until and unless you need it. Besides, even well-intentioned lawyers ramp up conflict where there doesn't need to be.

Regardless of which plan and optional services you select, there is no expensive retainer required to work with us.  And, on your instruction, our Hello Divorce team will work with both of you, making the divorce process transparent, affordable, and convenient. Really.

Divorce doesn't have to take forever, and it doesn't have to cost you everything. You can find a process that works for your situation, whether that's divorce through mediation or through an online divorce platform like Hello Divorce.

When you arm yourself with information and an understanding of the process, you'll feel empowered and in control, which will keep conflict and costs low. It's time to move forward and stop delaying your divorce. Do the research, initiate the paperwork, and start your next chapter so you can finally live the life you've been envisioning for yourself.

Ready to go? Get started with a free 15-minute call with one of our account coordinators, who can help you access all the information you need to get (and keep) your divorce on track.


The adjustment of children with divorced parents: a risk and resiliency perspective. National Library of Medicine.
Parental Depression: How It Affects a Child. Yale Medicine.
Interparental conflict, children’s security with parents, and long-term risk of internalizing problems: A longitudinal study from ages 2 to 10. National Library of Medicine.
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.