Sunday, June 24, 2012

How Divorce Saved a Marriage

Oddly, sometimes it takes a divorce action to actually save a marriage and make it better.

In one situation, a client came in very distraught.  Jane was in a long-term marriage and had 2 lovely children.  For years, her husband Bill, was a wonderful soul mate and then, suddenly, he made a 180 degree turn.  He took great risks with family money and engaged in affairs with other women.  His continuous “highs” and “lows” led Jane to seek help and conclude that he was suffering from a bi-polar disorder.  Unfortunately, he refused to seek help.   He was not seeing a doctor.  He was not taking medication.  He thought there was nothing wrong with him and everything wrong with her.

She did not want to break up the family, nor did she want to leave him, but one cannot knock on a locked door forever.  Finally, Jane decided that she needed to file for divorce to preserve the emotional and financial well-being of her family.

Mediation was out of the question as was collaborative law because Bill simply would not voluntarily participate in any process.  He continued to jeopardize the family’s finances, so we had to file an action for divorce in a very aggressive way.  In fact, we filed an emergency Order to Show Cause to restrain him from further dissipating family resources.  After it was signed by a judge, the Order had to be served on Bill personally, but Bill began evading the process server.  He wouldn’t answer the door.  He wouldn’t pick up the phone.  Finally, the process server caught up with him as he was running down the street with one of his girlfriends, and that is where and how he was finally served.

Bill then hired a fairly aggressive attorney to defend him and we moved forward.  It took months of litigation and financial discovery in court for Bill to finally understand what was happening to his and his family’s life and to realize that he was suffering from an illness.  He sought help, and Jane accompanied him on his visits to doctors.  After Bill’s condition was stabilized, Jane and Bill decided that they didn’t really want to get divorced, however, Jane still wanted security to make sure that if Bill lost control again, her future and that of their children would not be jeopardized.

Bill’s “aggressive” lawyer and I were completely on board in helping these people save their marriage.  It was finally decided that Bill and Jane would enter into a Separation Agreement that divided all of their finances and their responsibilities with respect to the children.  After it was signed by each of them, they would dismiss the divorce action and continue to live together.

Through therapy, marriage counseling and psychiatric management of  Bill’s condition, Jane and Bill were able to stay married and live quite happily for a number of years.  Ultimately, after Bill had regained Jane’s trust, they both agreed to destroy the Separation Agreement.

Jane was wise to act fairly quickly, rather than wait for years as do many spouses of people who are suffering from an addiction or mental illness.  When a spouse unilaterally “hangs in there”, despite the other spouse’s refusal to acknowledge their problem, saving the marriage becomes less likely.  At that point, the supporting spouse is often simply too tired and resentful to stay in the relationship.  Jane and Bill’s story confirms that sometimes one can save a family by taking a drastic step toward its actual dissolution.

Do you know anyone who would also find this blog of value? Please feel free to forward it to them. If you have any comments or follow-up questions, click on the “Comments” link at the bottom of the blog.


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  2. Your blog is so true and hits home for many clients, some that go through the divorce because they as you say are so tired of begging the spouse with the behavioral disease whether it is alcoholism or bipolar or some other personality disorder that disrupts the family and especially can harm the children. The best advice is to act soon and not to wait years until you end up almost despising your spouse and really, that spouse is sick but needs perhaps to "hit bottom" : Know he or she will lose their family before the situation gets so out of control. Also, support for both is so important. Usually the non ill spouse has friends that say get away, you can do better, i thought he/she was wierd, but that doesn't really help the situation because so many do not understand mental health issues. You do not stop loving your spouse, you are mad at them for destroying your family when they need to go get help and life could be better. I use Linda Hamilton and Catherine Zeta-Jones as examples of successful people in the limelight who have fulfilled lives with the help of medicine. If someone ill thinks they can get by without it, they eventually will be hospitalized and it is in their hands whether they will be hospitalized again or even placed in Jail. Everyone needs support not necessarily being told what to do, just knowing someone is there for you. If you took away that illness, that marriage would most times or all times be saved. Also especially with bi polar, it takes 5 weeks or more to try out meds and if they do not work, another five weeks to try others and on an on so the earlier a problem is recognized in the family and professionals are consulted, all the better. Some wise woman pal once said : " it is your children, you choose to have them, it is your responsibility to be mentally healthy for them. Get fixed. Get it fixed. How can you take care of them if you have mental health issues? " And even when our own clients need counseling to even go through a divorce I often say "put the mask over your face first before your child. Get yourself together before we begin this journey that will decide important issues for your children." Who knew my flight attendant friends had the answers all the time!!!

  3. This is a great article. It really shows what can happen when people in trouble get help from the right professionals.

  4. This is one of the reason why I love reading post such this. All I can is that, the only bright aspect is that as long as you and your partner are not officially divorced, you have every probability to protect your marriage. And that is offered you do the right aspects and not what you think is right as many men have found out at a cost. Divorce Lawyers Montreal

  5. Great article! We are on the same track, so we went to mediator. I agreed to seek some professional help from psychiatrist or psychologist but it's really hard to find somebody really want to help to resolve other's problem. The only thing I can argue that guilt applies to both sides, it can't be only one messed everything up, it's not such a simple. So, now I'm trying to convince my wife to go with me for medical treatment even thou she is a doctor too and she "knows better then then anybody else" what she needs. Again, thank you for article

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  10. It is good to know that there are instances that filing for divorce may still give one hope that the marriage may still be saved. It is an uncommon event but I hope that some may be enlightened that getting divorced is not the final and only solution to make the marriage work or just end. I guess sometimes, people just really need a third person to make both parties realize what each has to do to come to an agreement.

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