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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