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C. Eric Schmidt - Attorney at Law


Marilyn Gale Vilyus - Founding Attorney - Semi-retired - of counsel to C.E. Schmidt and Associates, Attorneys at Law

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        Houston, Texas 77079



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Should I Divorce or Not

Are you thinkin’ about the Big “D”? (and, I don’t mean Dallas!)

What should you consider when deciding If you want a divorce?

No one besides you can determine whether or not a divorce is right for you!  But, there are some general questions which pretty much apply to everybody.  Thinking about the following issues may help you answer this question for yourself!

What specifically is making you think of divorce?

Physical Abuse

If your spouse is violent to you and/or your kids, this is a safety issue.  No matter what you may have done, NOONE deserves to be hurt!  Your spouse may be trying to justify his or her actions by blaming all of your marital problems on you.  Please remember that a marriage requires effort by both persons to make it work.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Has your spouse tried to isolate you from your friends and family?
  • Have you had to call the police to stop violence?
  • Have you ever had to go to the hospital as a result of being hurt by your spouse?
  • Does your spouse apologize after hurting you and promise “never to do it again?"
  • Do you try to do everything “right” to keep your spouse from losing his or her temper?
  • Does this work for a little while, only to have the violence eventually start again?
  • Can you feel the pressure building in between violent episodes?
  • Does the smallest thing set off a violent episode?
  • Do you feel that nothing you do is right?

If you can identify with the above questions, you may be a victim of “battered spouse syndrome.”  This situation, although it can occur with both wives and husbands, usually describes a situation in which a husband is physically abusing his wife.

A great deal of psychological and legal study has been done on this topic.  Often, women who have been abused “forgive their husbands” and stay in the abusive situation.  It has been found that five times is the average number of times a woman leaves her spouse before she can successfully escape the psychological control an abusive spouse can have over her.

Often, an abused wife alienates her family and friends who get angry when they try to help the woman leave, only to learn that she has returned to her husband and the dangerous situation!

Maybe you don’t think you have anywhere to go!  Most cities have special shelters for woman and children and will keep your location secret from your husband.  Free legal fees are also frequently available.

Help is definitely available!!!!!  Please don’t let yourself or your children stay in a situation which could result in serious injury or even death.  Please visit www.womenshelters.org for a comprehensive nationwide list of women's shelters and transitional housing!

If you think you may be the “abuser” in this situation, help is also available for you to stop this pattern of behavior so that you can move forward and enjoy the pleasure of a healthy, happy relationship.  Everyone deserves a second chance at happiness!  Everybody can change and learn and grow from our mistakes.  Maybe counseling is the answer.  Maybe an anger management class would help; or, spiritual guidance from your particular clergyman if you have a church affiliation!  Perhaps you might consider yoga, meditation or some other form of “alternative” medicine.  Just reach out, and you will find the answer that is right for you!

The Affair

You never in a million years thought it could happen to you!  All of sudden, your spouse starts staying up late or gets up in the middle of the night to use the computer for chat rooms and secret e-mails to internet “buddies.”  Why did your spouse erase the text message history on his or her phone?  Are they really sleeping with their cell phone under their pillow?  Oh my goodness!  Is that a charge for a dating site on their credit card?

Then, there are the old-fashioned, more traditional ways to cheat:  the business trip, the co-worker, the high school reunion hook-up, and so on and so forth!  Let’s not forget the world’s oldest profession!

The question is – do you leave or do you stay?

The world is divided into two groups of people --(Those who count their carbs and those who don’t.) It is also divided into those spouses who can forgive an affair by their spouse and move forward –- and those who can’t.

If you are the victim of a wandering spouse, you should be honest with yourself.  You may think you want the marriage to continue.  Do you really want to work things out, or are you secretly determined to make your spouse’s life a living hell from here forward?  Maybe you don’t really want this consciously; perhaps you just can’t help yourself because the resentment you feel is buried deeply!

Maybe your personal or spiritual values will keep you from continuing in a marriage in which your spouse has cheated.  Or, the opposite could be true.  You may feel that you are committed to stay in your marriage no matter what.

Being honest with yourself about your true motives will go a long way towards helping you make the right decision.

What if you are the person who has found someone else?

Maybe your marriage has been over for a long time.  What would have to happen to save your relationship?  Have you and your spouse talked about what seems to be missing in your marriage.  Do you still love your spouse?  If you could save your marriage, would you want to?  Would you be willing to get some professional help?

Or, is it just a "day late and a dollar short?"

Sometimes, a couple has passed the point of no return.  Regardless of whether your spouse wants a divorce or not, the State of Texas will not force a couple to live together or to stay married if one of them wants a divorce.  Much of the time, one person emotionally leaves the relationship long before the other.  Your spouse may need some “catch-up” time to get used to this idea.

If this is the case, you should be prepared for a bumpy ride for awhile.  Your spouse will probably alternate between being angry, depressed, bargaining, penitent, furious, grieving, victimized, vengeful, retaliatory, depressed again, pathetic, and hostile (and then all over again!)

You may not know which of your spouse’s “multiple personalities” you are going to have to deal with on any given day!  One minute, everything is calm and you are talking rationally.  The next day you’re living in the seventh circle of hell.

It helps to remember that some of this is purely situational; ie. it is (believe it or not) normal behavior.  It isn’t actually about the two individuals – you and your spouse. Instead, it’s about being hurt and feeling betrayed.  Both parties feel guilty.  Both are suffering.  Both may feel just plain miserable!

Debt

Lord have mercy.  Those purchases seemed like a good idea at the time.  All of a sudden, you have credit card debt and lots of it (thousands and thousands of dollars worth).  It may be that you had expenses to cover and you just didn't have any other choice except to put them on a credit card.

Maybe, the two of you have not been on the same page regarding your spending habits for years!  Maybe, you have "bailed your spouse out" before -- maybe several times!  Maybe, you have now just had enough!

Sometimes, now the question becomes whether or not to declare bankruptcy and then get divorced or if you should get a divorce first and then declare bankruptcy!  This is a complicated matter which has implications in both the "family law world" and the "bankruptcy world!"

You may not want or intend to declare bankruptcy at all!  If this is a consideration though, you should speak to both a bankruptcy attorney and a family law attorney so that you can best consider the options that make the most sense for your personal situation.  We family law attorneys are used to working on cases in coordination with our "bankruptcy" colleagues!

Other kinds of financial problems frequently stress a marriage and can bring it to an early conclusion:  gambling, excessive drinking, drug use (I’m talking about the COSTS involved here), spending on step-children or adult children.

Got problems with child support from a previous relationship?

(Interest and penalties can cause the most loving spouse to lose his or her sense of humor.)

Did you previously have great credit but now you can’t finance a happy meal?  Money can’t buy happiness.   But, It has been suggested that the people who believe that don’t know where to shop!

Seriously, let’s face it!  Food and shelter are pretty basic needs (Maslow’s Hierarchy – Psychology 101).  A spouse who thinks his or her partner is to blame for their financial ruin may just decide to cut their losses and run away (very fast).

Debt counseling and debt consolidation could help.  Getting out from under steep monthly payments may provide much needed relief, as can re-financing the house or a home equity loan.  These solutions will only work if the couple cures the disease and not just the symptoms!  A serious change in lifestyle is in order.

Can you work this through?  Can you afford to split up?  Two people can live together more cheaply than they can apart!  Sometimes, a couple literally cannot make it financially by living separately!  Sometimes, the threat of losing medical insurance keeps a couple together.  Other times, couples who still very much love each other get a divorce because it allows them some financial benefit!

Conclusion

Obviously, there are plenty of reasons people get divorced which I have not covered in this article!

You may not be any closer to knowing whether or not filing for divorce is the right answer for you.  But, I hope that thinking about some of the above will help you in your decision making process.

Have faith in yourself.  I know that you will do the right thing!

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