Know the Law: What If I Don’t Want a Divorce?

December 23, 2013

Published in the Union Leader

Q. My wife asked for a divorce. I don’t want a divorce for the sake of our kids and for religious reasons. Can I refuse to grant a divorce or propose something less than a full divorce?

A. If you do not want a divorce, a legal separation and/or a postnuptial agreement (“postnup”) may be helpful legal remedies.

Postnups have enjoyed increasing popularity throughout the country. Postnups allow married parties to reach agreement about the fate of their assets and liabilities upon death or divorce. This gives a couple financial independence and security while allowing them to remain married. This relief from monetary stressors may ease fears and tensions that would otherwise lead to divorce. In the event of divorce, a well-drafted postnup that follows the necessary formalities can greatly simplify the process and division of property.

A legal separation is also an option when both spouses are disinclined to divorce for religious, insurance or emotional reasons. A legal separation grants relief similar to a divorce, including awards of assets, liabilities, support, and parenting rights/responsibilities, but allows parties to remain married and certain issues to be revisited. A legal separation is very similar to obtaining a divorce, but without the finality. If a divorce is later desired, a nearly identical process for divorce would need to be commenced.

If your wife is truly committed to a divorce, then the law permits her to obtain one. If that is the case, since you cannot stop the process, your best alternative is to accept it and select the route that will achieve the best outcome for you. For most, the best result is a private, fast, cost-effective solution that you can design, rather than an expensive and bitter court process that may take years to conclude. The two options best suited to efficiently resolve your divorce are collaborative law and mediation. In mediation, a mediator would facilitate a discussion between you and your spouse about resolution of each divorce-related issue. You may attend mediation with or without an attorney or use an attorney in a “coach” capacity outside of mediation. In collaborative law, the parties, their attorneys and any jointly retained professionals work as a team to resolve issues together and with an agreement to do so outside of court. Both processes are private, cost-efficient, respectful and preserve a couple’s dignity as they disentangle their marital relationship and move forward separately.

Margaret Kerouac can be reached at

Know the Law is a bi-weekly column sponsored by The McLane Law Firm.
We invite your questions of business law. Questions and ideas for future columns should be addressed to:  Know the Law, The McLane Law Firm, P.O. Box 888, Manchester, NH 03101 or emailed to  Know the Law provides general legal information, not legal advice.  We recommend that you consult a lawyer for guidance specific to your particular situation.