Imagine this email to spouse: ‘I’m filing for divorce’


How did you tell your ex you wanted a divorce? Or how did she tell you?

Almost certainly, it wasn’t by email.

Yet one divorce attorney says she knows of such a notification.

“As a divorce mediator and lawyer, sometimes I feel like I’ve heard it all,” writes Abby Tolchinsky on Huffington Post. “I am terribly hard to surprise.”

Yet surprised she was when she saw an email from a spouse (she doesn’t reveal if it was husband or wife) announcing the intention to file for divorce.

And what surprised Abby even more: The email was “both thoughtful and tasteful,” she writes.


Is electronic communication so common that even news as devastating as divorce can be delivered remotely by email?

I guess.

This article raises the question: What’s the best way to notify your spouse that you want a divorce? Is there a good way?

How should you break the news?

Well, I know there’s a bad way. For instance, it would be downright cruel to serve divorce papers to someone in a busy office. What if he or she completely broke down? The public humiliation would compound the pain of divorce.

I’ve been divorced twice, and I distinctly remember how each divorce went down. In my first, I served papers to my wife at the apartment where she moved after our separation. She was shocked and hurt (she still hoped for a reconciliation), but at least she received the news in private.

In my second divorce, neither of us served the other with papers. Instead, after months of problems, we knew the marriage was dead. The act of filing for divorce was anti-climatic. My wife and I each told the other we were hiring a lawyer, and the two lawyers did all the communication. Emotionally the divorce was still devastating, but the process was tidy.

If you’re divorced, how did the process take place? Did one person blindside the other with divorce papers? Or did you discuss the divorce decision jointly – almost like a business transaction?

I wonder, how do experts recommend initiating a divorce?

Best way to tell your spouse you’re divorcing them

“There are some conversations that are hard by their very nature,” writes Dr. Gail Saitz, a psychiatrist. “Telling your spouse you want a divorce is certainly at the top of the list.”

She suggests talking to a divorce attorney before breaking the news to your spouse.

“Many people have no idea what they are getting into,” Saitz writes. “A lawyer will explain how this will all play out. You will have increased housing costs, possible custody disputes or restrictions on moving out of state. Read up on the topic, too.”

Once you’re ready to tell your spouse, try to remain calm and not resort to accusations, she advises.

“It’s important to minimize negative fallout for yourself (and also for any children),” Saitz writes. “Having a healthy divorce is as important as having a healthy marriage.”

Charles Hofheimer, a Virginia divorce attorney, advises the person initiating the divorce discussion to “behave with confidence.”

“Make sure your reasons are general, simple and to the point,” he writes. “If you provide specific examples, such as a longstanding point or contention or particular events, it can lead to a fight and take you off-topic.”

I viewed several other articles on handling the divorce announcement. Not one mentioned doing it via email.

Any marriage, no matter how bad it’s become, should be ended with as much civility and respect as possible. The divorce decision should be communicated directly in person. Even if sparks fly, a face-to-face discussion is still the proper way to part.

Email is a great way to handle most subjects, but it’s a cowardly copout when it comes to communicating a divorce.


If you’ve been divorced, you know how painful it is. Imagine if your wife had blithely sent you an email, saying she wanted out. Let’s hope divorce-by-email doesn’t become a trend.

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About Ed Housewright

Ed Housewright is the chief cook and bottle washer at Single Dad House. After three decades as a newspaper reporter, he’s trying to adapt to the social media world. He’s matrimonially challenged with two divorces under his belt and is trying to do a better job at raising his 12-year-old son, Connor. Follow Ed on Twitter: @singledadhouse.


  1. I have been divorced twice….each was very different.
    1-Husband left a few days after our 3rd son was born to be with his newly turned 18 yo girlfriend (he was 24, almost 25)….huge surprize for me. We tried counseling for 4 months, until she called me on my birthday and told me that she was pregnant. I filed the next day…within 8 months it was legal and their son was born a few weeks later (they split up during the pregnancy).
    2-We eloped about being together for 3 months (should never had gotten married). After the first year we split up for two weeks and then got back together. By the second year, he finally moved out and back with his mom (main cause of our fighting). We did couseling mostly because he didn't believe I didn't love him and became mentally unstable. Finally I filed and brought the papers to counseling with me for him to sign. Divorce is final next week….we are still good friends and agree getting married was a bad idea.

  2. My exhusband served me with divorce papers days after my 30th birthday hours after I got home from the hospital with a DVT…. In a strange way, I think it helped me heal. He made – the last in a long line of – dick moves.

  3. Great points Ed. Just wanted to drop you a line to verify that the "I am filing for divorce." e-mail has actually happened.

    A quick note about how I came upon your arictle. My ex and I divorced in 2007 and are, as of this writing, undergoing yet another lengthy custody dispute (always at her initiation). I am finally making an attempt to clarify the whole situation to the legal system for the benefit of my kids. Without going into detail, it's a really bad situation. I googled "e-mail notification of divorce" because I am trying to paint a realistic picture of the last 7 years of my kids lives (now 12, 9, and 7) so that maybe…just maybe, the courts will finally see my struggle and what its putting them through. My google search led me here.

    Now…back to verification. I was in the U.S. Army and deployed to Iraq in 2007. In the beginning of my 5th month (of 12) I received just such an e-mail. From her, to me, no subject, and the body stated entirely "I want a divorce." I didn't her from her or my kids for another 7 weeks.

    I too hope that this has not and will not become the trend. Cheers to you and all of the divorced parents out there! Adam

  4. Divorce is a painful matter and you provide here lots of information about the divorce which is notable point for them who welling to get divorce. Your conception gives me as well as better and handful lettering about the divorce that helps me a lot.