What If Your Divorce is Mutual?

Waiting hurts. Forgetting hurts. But not knowing which decision to take can sometimes be the most painful.

José N. Harris

So, you and your spouse have come to a mutual decision to divorce. Congratulations for taking a big step. But while you may be on the same page moving forward, that doesn’t mean the path to reach your decision was easy or painless.

Maybe you wanted to work on the marriage but your spouse didn’t. Maybe you both simply grew irrevocably apart. Maybe you came to realize you want completely different things and need to pursue happiness separately.

Whatever the reason for your split, it’s important to know that just because you both want a divorce, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. You can feel a roller coaster of emotions, from relief and excitement to intense grief and loss. Give yourself permission to experience these emotions. 

You are entitled to feel sad. In fact, up until you made the mutual decision to divorce, you may have been experiencing an “okay” relationship. Your relationship may have fulfilled certain needs for companionship or security, but not others. Together, you shared an imagined future. So grieving this loss is both normal and necessary for you to move on. 


“After my husband and I first decided to separate, I felt intense joy and freedom. I was able to pursue new possibilities for the first time in years. But, a few months later, after the initial euphoria wore off, I began to deeply mourn our shared memories and our future plans. We had built a life together that no longer existed. I knew we were no longer right for each other, so my grief for our partnership took me completely by surprise. If I wanted this and knew it was the right thing for me and for our relationship, why did it hurt so badly?”


Getting practical

Let’s start with some good news. If you both want a divorce and your relationship is amicable, you are good candidates for a less expensive and conflictive divorce process involving mediation and possibly less attorney time. A less combative divorce can save you time, money and emotional strain. Choose your mediator and divorce attorney carefully. Interview at least three mediators and attorneys. Be sure the people you choose align with your values, understand that you plan to divorce amicably and efficiently and be sure that you trust them. Keep in mind that even if you decide to divorce primarily using an effective mediator, you still may find it helpful to have legal counsel present for some or all of your mediation process. 

Make a plan together, to separate

If your relationship remains amicable and respectful, it’s super helpful to sit down together and make a plan regarding your separation and eventual divorce. You can choose to live apart for a few months while you feel out your new life and gather the documents and paperwork you need. If you have kids or one of you makes more money,  speak with your mediator or attorney about a temporary order for child support and/or alimony (maintenance) so that you can both afford separate residences during your separation period. Listen to each other. Set a timeline that works for both of you. 

Respect each other’s boundaries

When your relationship is friendly, it can be easy to blur the lines between separation and partnership. As you begin to live alone, be mindful that you are responsible for your decisions. Don’t depend on your spouse to handle things they may have handled in the past. Step up, take responsibility, and take care of yourself. This can be a healthy growth experience if you choose to face it head on. 

Go with the emotional flow

Even if you know divorce is the best course of action, it’s natural to feel sad, angry, and hurt. It’s also normal to feel excitement, freedom and joy. Take time to experience these emotions. And know that your feelings will change. Some people find it helpful to write in a journal. Some people find comfort in talking with a friend. However you work through your feelings, it’s okay to miss your ex, feel friendly toward them, and still know you shouldn’t be together. 

Be nice

Does it need to be said? Well, sometimes we all need to hear it. Don’t take an amicable relationship for granted. Maintaining civility can take work but it will make your divorce much easier and less stressful. Try your best to maintain compassion and respect for your ex, even as your emotions cycle up and down. Get distance when you need it, and allow your partner to do the same. You may even remain friends after the papers are signed, or become friends again at some point in the future.

Navigate the inevitable bumps in the road

Even couples who are friendly and aligned on a mutual divorce can hit rough patches. You may agree on 90 percent of things but disagree on the last ten. Co-parenting and division of assets are common examples of where you may need assistance. Just because you don’t intend to go to trial doesn’t mean lawyers can’t be helpful. In fact, consulting with a lawyer is sometimes the quickest, least expensive and combative option, especially if you already have a trusted, neutral mediator involved. Remember, divorce laws in each state are different and it’s important to know the law where you live. 

Tip: Try hiring a separate attorney for each of you for a few hours (note: this could be less or more time), schedule a day for mediation, and work to resolve the final ten percent of issues during that session. This can deescalate tension and help both of you reach an equitable compromise without letting your divorce issues be decided by a judge.

Take the next step

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