Should You Hide Divorce Plans from Your Spouse?

Margy Klaw

Katie Holmes used a disposable cellphone to talk secretly to her lawyers, and filed for divorce in Manhattan while Tom Cruise was on location in Iceland.

Is this the way to go? Usually not—but it depends.

There are three main reasons to let your spouse know you want a divorce. First and foremost it shows respect (would you want to be blindsided?). Also:

  • You set the tone. Discussing divorce ahead of time sends a message that you want to approach the end of your marriage as civilized adults with a mutual problem to solve, rather than as enemies in a war.
  • You avoid the possibly nasty outcome of surprise: e.g. it could trigger an explosion at worst—ill will at best.

My husband had a colleague who came home from work to find all his furniture gone, and a note from his wife saying she had moved out and filed for divorce. He was devastated, clueless and later, really angry.

The fallout was huge; any generosity of spirit he might have shown toward his wife in the settlement negotiations was obliterated by the way she chose to start the divorce.

That said, there are important exceptions: If you’re afraid that if you discussed divorce with your spouse up front that you’d suffer physical, emotional, or financial consequences, then take your cue from Katie Holmes and proceed in secret.

Fearful? Think a stealth divorce might be right for you? Stay tuned for next week’s post by expert divorce lawyer Margaret Klaw on what to do.

Shhhhhh. Do you know anyone who decided to set up a divorce on the sly?

Margaret Klaw is a founding partner with Berner Klaw & Watson in Philadelphia. She blogs at Family Law Unraveled.

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