My Husband Wants a Divorce, What Are My Rights?

By staff
Updated Dec 26, 2022


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Finding out your husband wants a divorce may come as a shock, but if you look back, you may realize it wasn’t a sudden decision. Many people contemplate divorce for years before they approach the topic with their spouse.

You’ve probably been aware of the problems in your marriage for a while, and your husband was the first to make an actionable decision.

If your husband wants a divorce, here’s what you need to know about what to expect and how to prepare yourself for the process.

What Is Custody

Can I Stop My Husband From Filing for Divorce?

Anyone can file for divorce from anyone they’ve married. No one can be forced to remain in a marriage with someone else. If your husband serves you with divorce papers, it doesn’t matter if you refuse to sign them or respond.

All that means is that the divorce will proceed without you, and your husband will be granted everything he asks for in the divorce.

It’s better to accept the situation and become an active participant in your own divorce. You can’t stop the process, but you can help to control the direction of the outcome.

Are There Alternatives to Divorce?

You can suggest alternatives to divorce, like separation or marriage counseling. Your husband doesn’t have to agree to these alternatives.

You’ll only need to be legally separated in states that require legal separation prior to divorce, and most people who use legal separation will ultimately divorce anyway.

If your husband is open to the idea of attempting marriage counseling, figure out a schedule that will work for both of you. It’s important to temper your expectations. About half of all couples that see a marriage counselor will get divorced within a few years after beginning counseling.

Still, that means half of couples find that counseling works for them.

Divorce is never any couple's ideal outcome or first choice, so taking these alternative steps may help save your marriage. At the very least, you’ll know you did everything in your power to make the relationship work.

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First, Consider Your Own Feelings

Divorce is often an emotional time. When your husband first tells you that he wants a divorce, you’re going to go through different emotional stages. You may be upset or angry. It’s okay to feel your emotions, but you should discuss serious topics with your husband after the initial shock has worn off.

It can be difficult to have a productive conversation when you feel hurt or offended. Many people find therapy helpful when they experience a negative emotional reaction to a breakup or a divorce, and it may help you have a more amicable divorce process if your husband does continue with the process.

Your well-being is important throughout every step of your divorce. If you have children, their well-being is also important. It’s your job to make sure that you and your children are doing alright. Focus on your emotional health, both as an individual and as a family unit.

You Have a Right to Make Requests in the Divorce Settlement

Your husband does not have the final say as to how property is divided in a divorce settlement. Unless you have a prenuptial agreement that contains specific instructions, you’ll need to make decisions about how things are split when you part ways.

Most states recognize separate property and community property. Separate property refers to the things you owned independently before you were married. If your husband had a couple of classic cars or a vintage motorcycle before you tried the knot, those will be his forever.

If you inherited the house you live in from your grandparents, it will always be your house. You won’t divide those assets in a divorce.

Community property refers to money, businesses, and tangible assets (like houses and cars) obtained after you got married. If your husband purchased rental properties or if you bought a car after you got married, those things are often considered community property.

You both likely benefited from these things or helped each other with them, which gives you both a claim to the assets even if you didn’t buy them jointly.

While you’re getting a divorce, you’re able to express what parts of the property you’d like to keep. Your husband doesn’t have to agree. You’ll need to work together to come to a conclusion you both agree with or take the matter to court as a contested divorce.

You Have a Right To Request Custody of Your Children

If you have never been accused of abuse or neglect and nothing about your life situation (like substance use issues) would make you an unfit parent, you have a right to custody of your children.

Custody matters should always be decided with the best interest of the child in mind. In most cases, it’s in a child’s best interest for both parents to have an active role in their lives.

No one can attempt to deny you custody of your children unless they have a valid legal ground to do so. That goes both ways. You don’t have the right to take custody away from your husband if he’s safe for your children to be around.

He also has the right to participate in a joint custody arrangement.

You Have a Right to Request Child Support for Your Children

If your spouse makes more money than you do and the children will spend most nights at your house, you have a right to request child support.

Even if your husband will spend time with your children after your divorce, the court wants to know that your children are adequately provided for. They’ll do their best to assure that your children will have the same quality of life after your marriage as they did during your marriage.

You May Have a Right To Request Alimony

Alimony, also called maintenance or spousal support, is a monthly payment that one spouse pays for a former spouse after a divorce. Not all couples are eligible for an alimony arrangement after a divorce.

If you and your husband arranged your lives in a way where your husband was the primary breadwinner, and you were the primary homemaker, you were in a situation where you were heavily financially dependent on your husband.

Alimony typically lasts for 60% to 70% of the length of your marriage. That’s seven to eight months for every year you were married. If you and your husband were married for 10 years, you might receive alimony payments for 6 years.

Alimony payments can stop early if one of you passes away or if you get remarried. If your husband loses his job or if you get a job with sufficient income, your husband can petition the court to have alimony payments reduced or stopped.

Choosing a Method of Divorce

Your divorce will happen whether or not you’re an active participant in the process. It’s far better to work together to decide how you want things to go. Most divorces are completed as uncontested divorces, which is almost always the ideal outcome.

Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce is a divorce where both people completely agree on their divorce settlement. You both understand how matters like the division of property, child custody, and child support will work in your situation, and you don’t have any objections.

Contested Divorce

A contested divorce takes place when both people cannot agree on at least one issue. They bring their divorce to court, where they’re represented by lawyers. A judge will ultimately make the decision, whether both parties agree or not.

Contested divorces are rare. They’re also time-consuming, expensive, and stressful. It’s best to avoid this scenario unless mediation or another alternate form of communication is unsafe or truly unproductive

How To Talk Things Out

You’re going to need to have some very important conversations about the best way to conclude your marriage. If it’s safe to talk, you have plenty of options. If it isn’t safe to talk, you need legal help.

If It’s Safe To Talk

If you and your husband can have a civil conversation, you can privately discuss your divorce settlement. If you both agree to everything, you can complete your divorce paperwork together. You can file for an uncontested divorce and complete the entire divorce process in just a few months.

If you need a little help making decisions, you can work with a divorce mediator. A mediator isn’t a lawyer and doesn’t work with the court. They’re an expert on divorce laws, and they work to help people find compromises they can both live with. Your mediator can help you create a peaceful conclusion.

If It’s Not Safe To Talk

You may need to make some compromises, but you only need to make compromises you’re comfortable with. Your husband cannot coerce you to agree to things you don’t want. If you encounter this situation, you need to hire a lawyer.

If you feel threatened, coerced, or unsafe around your husband, you shouldn’t talk the situation out. You should hire a lawyer to advocate for you. You may be able to utilize legal resources for people in dangerous domestic situations.

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Beginning the Divorce Process

While it may seem like the end of the world when your husband asks for a divorce, know that there are ways to move forward.

While couples’ therapy and other tools may help you move forward together as a couple, processes like mediation are available to help you move forward separately with minimal stress.

Once the divorce process is complete, you can start a happy new chapter in your life and build an independent future you’ll love.

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