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Can your marriage be saved?  At this point, I have watched thousands of divorces play out.  Each divorce has a life of its own.  Divorce is one of four common options in addressing marital problems:

  1. Leave:  You take your expectations and put them in front of a new person.
  2. Give in:  The person who gives in basically lives out his or her life through the demands of the dominant spouse.  This is temporary as it gets exhausting to pretend you are someone you are not.
  3. Compromise:  Remember the line?  Quid pro quo.  Yet in a 50/50 marriage, someone may always feel like they never get more than 49%.
  4. Control:  Control is on the other end of the spectrum from unconditional love.  The dictator wants the unconditional love, but you can’t have both.  Love is a darn big risk.  But, control doesn’t last.

Navigating Marital Problems: Can Your Marriage Be Saved?

Does your marriage look like one of these? Can your marriage be saved?

I sat in church today, listening to a pastor talk about these paths to divorce.  I am a believer in marriage, more than I ever dreamed possible after so many divorces.  After all the years serving amazing clients, I am amazed at people who just didn’t consider all the options to save their marriage.

I never put pressure on anyone to stay in a marriage.  Where I feel it’s reasonable, I do like to ask, “Do you think your marriage can be saved?”

But there is something more people in a marriage crisis need to know:  The legal system and the laws do not exactly reward staying married. What do abuse and infidelity mean, in the legal sense?  It doesn’t matter to a judge whether or not there is infidelity.

Marital Problems: The Multi-Faceted Challenges to Marriage Survival

Marriage is under attack in every way.  One way it is under attack is that the longer you stay in a marriage, trying to work out your marriage problems, the more years you may pay spousal maintenance.  Another way it is under attack is that if one spouse controls all the money, but they make bad money decisions, both spouses are charged with responsibility.

For those with children, we sometimes see one parent so alienated from the children that the parent has no authority.  The other parent, who is aligned with a child, has all the authority.  As someone who had access to both my parents no matter the challenges they faced, I cannot imagine not knowing my father or mother.  Facing life’s challenges as an adult, I needed both parents at different times.  It is a great infidelity, in my view, to alienate a child from a parent.

Exploring Alternatives to Court: Legal Separation

But once you go to court to seek protection from the laws that can literally penalize you for staying married, you can see how your chances of saving your marriage decline.

Where is the legal protection for you if you fit in one of those four categories but you don’t want to go to court?

Legal separation can offer you nearly all the financial protections of a divorce without the right to marry other people.  One exception may be your specific tax situation.  In a legal separation, you are legally married.  But a legal separation can protect your finances by a “preliminary injunction” that is required to be filed with every divorce or legal separation.

Exploring Alternatives to Divorce: Collaborative Law and Reconciliation

Another option that I offer is that for people who know there is a problem, use collaborative law.  Couples can make written agreements about financial responsibility, spousal maintenance / alimony, child support, custody or other concerns.  These written agreements in collaborative law can be binding without ever filing divorce or legal separation papers.

I have had several couples reconcile in my law practice.  Only one reconciliation was outside of collaborative law. And I am not the only lawyer who uses collaborative law. At this site, you can find a whole list of collaborative professionals.

Is it possible to rescue your marriage? From this divorce attorney’s perspective, it’s absolutely possible.  You need to carefully navigate any legal steps you take.

One way to see what life may look like post-divorce is to consider a separation agreement.  I wouldn’t advise doing this without an attorney’s advice.

Compare Traditional Divorce against Collaborative Law here.  Read more about being methodical about divorce here.

For information about spousal maintenance and how it could affect your separation agreement, see A.R.S. §25-319. What about child support? See A.R.S. §25-320.

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