Consider Whether, When and What to Tell Your Spouse

Do I have to tell my spouse?

No. Technically, you can wait until your spouse is served with divorce papers, and have the papers do the telling. It may be considered bad form in most cases — except for abuse — not to have a conversation, however. Although your behavior towards your spouse isn’t strictly relevant to the Oregon court’s divorce decisions, it could affect how aggressively your spouse responds. It is also possible that if the Oregon family court judge hears a series of details suggesting that you have a poor character or acted unfairly, the judge could rule against you in matters such as spousal support, where the judge is allowed to consider "any factors the court deems just and equitable." Any perceived bullying or cruelty towards each other could be considered.

When should I tell my spouse?

It is best to tell your spouse you want to divorce after you’ve protected yourself by hiring an Oregon divorce attorney, organizing your financial and other information, and knowing how you will live on your own.

When you decide to tell your spouse, it is advisable to avoid some common errors in this situation:

  • Try and tell them before they hear it from someone else. This can help you avoid a confrontation you may not be prepared for.
  • Don’t be indecisive. If you aren’t sure that you want a divorce, don’t use the word "divorce." This could trigger actions or legal moves by your spouse, which you may not be prepared for if you aren’t certain about filing for divorce.
  • You don’t have to "ask" for a divorce. In Oregon, you have a legal right to a divorce regardless of whether your spouse consents.
  • Don’t threaten that you will take the children or turn them against your spouse. These statements could be used against you in the future custody decision.
  • Don’t argue. Arguments about who is to blame, or who is the better parent, or who deserves what property, can extend into nasty, time-consuming, expensive litigation. Your effort now in lessening aggression can help you reach a fair settlement and save you money in your divorce.
  • Don’t say anything that can later be held against you. Don’t offer to give your spouse anything, or say anything negative about your own or your spouse’s parenting, etc.
  • Don’t be disrespectful. At this early stage, you can’t really expect cooperation or understanding. Treating your spouse respectfully now can set a more cooperative tone for what is to come.