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You’ve decided to divorce, but your spouse refuses. What next?

On Behalf of | Sep 17, 2021 | Divorce Mediation

The wife steps into the living room in their comfortable Milwaukee home. “I have something to talk over,” she says to her husband. “Oh, good,” he says, looking up from a book. “I have something I’d like to discuss as well. But you should go first.”

“I want a divorce,” she says. “That’s odd,” the husband exclaims, “I was about to say the very same thing.”

This type of simultaneous divorce-decision scenario is rare.

Been there, done that

Usually, one spouse decides ahead of the other that she or he wants a divorce. Many times, the other spouse doesn’t want to split. They prefer to try to work the differences out, reboot the marriage and give the relationship another try.

If you have arrived at the decision to divorce, it’s very possible that do-overs have already been tried and for one reason or another, failed.

Accepting reality

So what can you do if you want a divorce and your spouse doesn’t want to?

In a recent article for Psychology Today, clinical psychologist Ann Gold Buscho wrote that if you’re determined to divorce, your spouse is likely to eventually accept that reality, as painful as it might be.

In Wisconsin, divorce can be granted even if just one spouse believes the marriage should be ended.

Dealing with a resistant spouse

Buscho writes that some resistant spouses try to thwart the legal process, while others, often contending with fear, shame or rage, view the divorce as a power struggle.

One way of dealing effectively with a resistant spouse is to get legal advice on alternative divorce processes that are more thoughtful and less antagonistic. Here in Wisconsin, we have a pair of nonadversarial approaches available: mediation and collaborative divorce.


The mediation process includes only the two spouses and a trained and neutral mediator. The mediator’s task is to guide discussions and negotiations and to keep spouses aware of the law as they work toward an agreement on what to do with their kids, property division and other important matters.

Collaborative divorce

Like the mediation process, collaborative divorce allows you to have greater control over the terms of the divorce, rather than having a judge decide what’s best for you.

Unlike mediation, in collaborative divorce each spouse has an attorney whose task is to facilitate a divorce agreement.

Important reductions

The collaboration process typically reduces three big parts of divorce: conflict, time spent on the process and expense.

Buscho writes that if you have made your decision to divorce, you should be consistent and clear about the decision in your replies to your spouse’s questions. She writes that you should also seek legal advice to help you navigate a complex process.