So, she’s filed for divorce, and is asking you to sign the papers. Some folks suggest you don’t do this, make it hard for her, make her do it the long and difficult way; dig your feet in and make her drag you through divorce court. While this will keep you married for a few more months, it is only making her mad, and that’s not going to cause her to change her mind. The reality is you can’t stop her; if she wants a divorce, she will get it. The best you can do is make life miserable for her while slowing down the process. If that makes you feel better, then go for it – if you can justify it to yourself.
However, if you sign, it’s all over, right? Besides, signing is saying you agree, it’s saying you want the divorce, right? I don’t think signing means either of those things, especially if you make it clear you don’t want the divorce. Signed papers don’t mean a divorce – there is still a process and time. Even a divorce is not the end – I’ll discuss that in a few days.
Please understand that if she is asking you to sign papers, your wife is focused on nothing else. This is what she wants, and nothing else is going to be considered. She won’t hear you, and dragging your feet only means she will refuse to ever listen to you. In her mind you would be proving her right; one more example of you making her life difficult for no apparent reason (from her perspective). Your signature is the problem; the obstacle to overcome; it’s the only thing standing in the way of what she wants. If you give her your signature, she will relax – and that is when she might listen to you.
Yes, I am talking about giving her all the power. If you had any real power to stop the divorce such advice would not be the way to go, but you don’t have the power to stop her. Trust me, others before you have gone to extremes to stop a divorce, and the only people who benefit from that are lawyers. Aside from pissing her off now, you are burning all your bridges – and all for nothing since you can’t stop her.
Here is how I would do it. I’d send a note; an e-mail copied to a trusted mutual friend. I’d say something like this:
You have asked me to sign divorce papers. I have made it clear I don’t want a divorce, but I know I can’t stop you if you are dead set on divorce. Rather than being a jerk and making the whole thing take more time and money, I will have the signed papers in your hands on ______ (two days from today).
It is my hope that you will give the papers to your lawyer and ask him to hold them for you, but not to file them. I’ve given you the ability to end it at any time; my request is that you give me a chance to show you that we can make it work. Please take some time to relax – things have been crazy and we both need to clear our heads. Then please consider what it would take for our marriage to work. What do you need from me? What do I need to understand, what do I need to change? Who can we go to get help with this?
Follow up on moving out: Several of you have raised the concern that moving out of the house can hurt your chances of getting custody, full or joint, of the children should there be a divorce. After a bit of research I find that in the States this varies a great deal from state to state and case to case. If you have kids, you certainly need to get some good legal advice from someone local. The suggestion of moving into the basement or spare room has some merit; probably better for the kids, but probably also somewhat less likely to result in saving the marriage.
From all I have read, divorce is very hard on kids, and actually has negative effects that can be traced over the rest of their lives. To me this means that doing whatever you can to save the marriage is also the best thing for the kids. I do understand the desire to start working on the best you can have with the kids in case the divorce does happen, but that choice increases the chances of a divorce that will harm those children a great deal. Given that, I would say it’s going to be a decision that depends on the situation. That means you need good advice not only on the legal, but also on the emotional, mental, and spiritual ramifications of your various choices.