One of the most common questions I’m asked as a divorce attorney in NY during consultations is where does one start the process of divorce.

I proceed to tell my clients about filing and service of Summons & Complaint, which is the official beginning of a divorce in court. But the truth is that the process of divorce starts long before this step, and even way before a person is consulting a divorce attorney. It starts with one spouse making a clear decision that their relationship and partnership with the other spouse has come to an end. If this decision is not reached or if a person is not ready to make this call, then divorce has not started and should not be started.

Every relationship starts with a chemical and emotional reaction. With time, a mere biological impulse to reproduce is transformed into a very complicated medium that is layered with feelings, emotions, collaboration and commingling of identities. The final step is the addition of commitment and desire to invest into the future of a partnership. The institution of marriage is historically and traditionally used as a definitive marker and a way to commemorate the establishment of what will hopefully be a lifelong relationship. Divorce or “uncoupling”, as Gwneteh Paltrow likes to call it, is the process of dissolving the relationship. And just like getting to the final marriage step, getting to a divorce is a gradual step by step process. It should start long before a divorce attorney in NY gets called upon and official papers are filed in court. So where do you start?

You start with making a calculated and well thought out decision that your current relationship and partnership needs to end. This is step one. Many people hastily jump to this conclusion without fully committing or being emotionally, physically and financially ready. This is a common mistake caused by our human desire to preserve and protect ourselves from stress and harm. We are quick to share our troubles and ask others to draw conclusions for us. But until a sound and final decision to conclude the relationship is reached in the mind of the spouse, no further action should be taken. An experienced divorce attorney in NY will be able to tell if a spouse sitting in front of them has made that decision and is ready to move forward. It’s in their eyes and in their voice.  In my practice, I tell my clients that if I’m not convinced “beyond reasonable doubt” (borrowing a standard from criminal law), that they want the marriage and relationship to end, they are not ready to go any further.

Divorce should start only when you, as a spouse, say “stop”. Stop doesn’t mean slow down, yield or keep going and hope you don’t crash. It doesn’t mean go around or take a different route. And it also doesn’t mean going for a few more years this way because you think it’s best for the kid passengers in the back. Stop means stop. Hands off the wheel, foot of the gas, engine turned off. You are sure that this marriage vehicle can’t go and shouldn’t go any further. You are in no condition to drive it without getting hurt or hurting others. You have thought this through and made a decision. Then you call your divorce attorney in NY and, like Uber, we will pick you up with all your stuff and take you to the next point of your life protecting your safety and all the things you love. Making a decision to stop your marriage is where your divorce should start.