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timing when to file for divorce

Perfect Timing? When To File For Divorce

Categorized as Divorce, Spousal Support

There never is a perfect time to file for divorce…

When a marriage is headed for divorce, a question of timing usually plays a big part in when a spouse makes the actual decision to file for divorce. Divorce is a big deal. It’s usually hard to talk about divorce with your spouse, whether you are still together or separated. Divorce is permanently ending your marriage. It’s the end of a chapter of your life. No matter how long you’ve been married, it is going to be difficult.

Are You Emotionally Prepared to File for Divorce?

Support From a Trusted Therapist

One of the best things you can do when you’re thinking about filing for divorce is to seek therapy. Not couples therapy but therapy for yourself. Not everyone is comfortable about speaking to a stranger about their feelings or deepest and darkest secrets but most people would prefer to do this in a professional setting in confidence versus talking directly to their spouse. Therapy is a good place to start so that you can prepare yourself for the conversation with your spouse if you do decide to go through with the divorce process.

When you do file for divorce and are in the middle of the court proceedings, do not forget about that therapist. It’s easy to vent to your attorney but try to remember that they are there to help you with your legal issues and litigation is not the best place to take care of the bigger emotional issues you are going through.

…but there are better times than others.

Timing Considerations When You File for Divorce

Once you have spent some time processing why you are thinking about divorce if you decide divorce is the best choice you need to start thinking about timing. There are a lot of reasons timing is important in a divorce, but to get you started, here a few of the most important ones:

Important Timing Related Issues in Divorce


Retirement is sometimes a hotly contested financial issue in divorces. The biggest thing to remember here is that unless you have an agreement with your spouse otherwise, your retirement is usually divided from the date of marriage to the date of divorce. Typically the longer you are married, the bigger your spouse’s share of your retirement.

All property is presumed to be marital property unless you can prove otherwise. Your spouse may not be entitled to all of your retirement depending on when you began saving (before or after the marriage) but either way you should be aware that the date of the actual divorce is very important. If years go by litigating your divorce, your spouse’s interest in the retirement is very likely growing. Be sure to keep it in mind.


We often hear from family and friends that someone is staying in their rotten marriage “for the kids.” Many people try to stay in their marriages until their kids are grown. Some of these people try to work on their marriages throughout this time and that is great. You never know until you try. Other people stay in the marriage but emotionally check out. Those people tend to think that staying in the marriage is better than leaving, for the sake of the children. That is not always safe.

Now every family is different, but I would have to say that children usually have the hardest time processing the divorce of their parents when the children are older. All children are different and divorce impacts them all in different ways. However, if you have the mentality that you are only staying in the marriage for the sake of your children, really think about if that is the healthiest choice.

Adult and older children are sometimes very upset to learn of their parents’ marital issues and divorce can leave them often taking sides – usually whoever they end up seeing or talking to the most because they often only hear that parent’s perspective. Other adult children and older children are not surprised by a later divorce because they saw the trouble while they were growing up. They may have an easier time accepting the reality of the divorce if they did notice problems.

Staying Together for the Children?

Do you really want your children to be exposed to negativity throughout their childhood if you are staying together for them? Children tend to be happier when their parents are happy. If the parents’ divorce when the children are younger but move on to become happy separately then the children have the best of both worlds. Divorcing when you want to and when you need to is much better than your children being exposed to trauma growing up or having to go through it as an adult.

Once again, there is never a perfect time to file for divorce but if you have children, think about them and the impact on them.

  • Stick it out a few more years but have them exposed to two people who clearly do not want to be together?
  • Stick it out a few more years and pretend like everything is fine leaving them in utter shock when the time does come?

Your marriage is yours. It is between you and your spouse. Your children do not need to know and should not know the reasons behind the divorce. They aren’t your therapists. The best way to handle a divorce when you have children is to be straightforward with your spouse and to try your hardest to both be on the same page about how to handle the divorce as it relates to your children, whatever their age may be. You will always be their parents whether you are together or not.


Now, this is a big concern in cases when maintenance is a possibility for to either spouse. With the current statute addressing maintenance in Illinois the date of filing of the petition for dissolution of marriage is very important. For guideline maintenance calculations for the length of maintenance, we calculate from the date of marriage to the date that the action for dissolution is commenced. Then you multiply the length of the marriage with the corresponding percentage as outlined in the statute.

Below is the formula for maintenance length, effective January 1, 2019:

Marriages – Duration Percentages for Spousal Maintenance
  • less than 5 years (.20);
  • 5 years or more but less than 6 years (.24);
  • 6 years or more but less than 7 years (.28);
  • 7 years or more but less than 8 years (.32);
  • 8 years or more but less than 9 years (.36);
  • 9 years or more but less than 10 years (.40);
  • 10 years or more but less than 11 years (.44);
  • 11 years or more but less than 12 years (.48);
  • 12 years or more but less than 13 years (.52);
  • 13 years or more but less than 14 years (.56);
  • 14 years or more but less than 15 years (.60);
  • 15 years or more but less than 16 years (.64);
  • 16 years or more but less than 17 years (.68);
  • 17 years or more but less than 18 years (.72);
  • 18 years or more but less than 19 years (.76);
  • 19 years or more but less than 20 years (.80).
  • 20 or more years: the court, in its discretion, shall order maintenance for a period equal to the length of the marriage or for an indefinite term.

So when is the perfect time to file for divorce?

Only you can make that decision, but when you are thinking if or when to file for divorce and trying to figure out if that is the best option, remember to think about some of these big issues. The timing of your possible divorce will have both financial and emotional implications.

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