It’s arguably one of the most important decisions that you will ever have to make — whether to stay in a dysfunctional marriage or file for divorce. Each spouse has to come to his or her own conclusion whether to file for divorce based on the individual circumstances in the marital relationship. But there are some questions that all can ponder in order to make the right decision for all parties, including the kids.

What motivates you to take this action?

For some spouses, learning of a partner’s infidelity crosses their personal lines in the sand. Some acknowledge that they could never get past the breach in trust while others may appear amenable to counseling to attempt to work through their feelings of betrayal, anger and abandonment.

Sometimes couples don’t have a certain tipping point or “straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back” moment in their marriages. They may have just drifted so far apart that they hardly recognize the person to whom they once pledged their love. These marriages may appear doomed, yet if a flicker of the former flame can be reignited by conscious efforts to reconnect, couples may emerge even stronger.

Are you staying out of fear or to avoid being alone?

Marriages that go the distance typically are built upon shared values and experiences. There is a healthy and functional exchange of ideas, with both parties having the freedom they need to express themselves individually.

But some marriages are based on fear. A spouse might fear that divorce will restrict their ability to parent their children and remain relevant in the kids’ lives. Others might fear the idea of learning to live on a single income and the lifestyle they would leave behind in divorce.

There are also legitimate fears of winding up alone in your senior years. If you are used to decades of marital companionship, this may indeed be a jarring thought. You will need to carefully weigh the pros and the cons to determine how to move forward.

Is domestic abuse a factor?

It is true that people can learn to manage their anger in socially acceptable ways that do not involve causing physical, mental or emotional harm to their spouses. But that person has to be strongly motivated to make those major changes, and some never evolve to that point.

Nobody should have to live in fear of violence or any form of abuse. While divorce is not a guarantee that an out-of-control ex cannot still do you harm, it does allow you to put legal distance between you and an abusive spouse.

Major decisions require much forethought

Unless your or your children’s safety is in jeopardy, take the time to decide whether you want to file for divorce. Pennsylvania law allows for both no-fault and at-fault divorces, so learn which type would best fit your needs if you decide to end your marriage.

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