Ft. Lauderdale, FL- After much wrangling, and months, perhaps years of discontent, you’ve decided you want a divorce. That isn’t an easy decision for most people. You know you have many things to think about and do, but the most important is breaking the news to your spouse. It’s the first stage in the practical and emotional process of divorce.

As with anything there are wrong and right ways to do this and how you approach this serious discussion can have a long-term impact on how your divorce negotiations, custody arrangement and support settlements work out.

Timing

“Timing is everything.” This is phrase we like to use a lot because it rings true in so many circumstances and situations in life. That includes telling your spouse you want a divorce. It’s likely that if you are thinking about divorce, your spouse is aware that your marriage might be in trouble, but how when you break this news can mean all the difference between an acrimonious or harmonious divorce—yes, they do exist.

Don’t hit your spouse with the news out of the blue. If you haven’t discussed your unhappiness with your spouse, it would be wise, before you utter the “D” word, to give your spouse hints that you are dissatisfied with the state of your marriage. You both deserve the opportunity to see if some of your issues can be worked out and resolved before you run to the divorce attorney.

Choosing the right time is very important since divorce evokes deeply emotional issues. In reality, there is no perfect time to tell your spouse you are filing for divorce, but there are some guidelines you can follow. One, you should tell them when you both have the time to devote to long discussions. A time when you both have a couple of days off from work might be ideal.

If you’re afraid your spouse will react angrily or get become physically abusive, it might be better to tell them in public or with a neutral third party present.

You know better than anyone how your spouse will react in an emotionally-charged situation so you must choose wisely where and when you tell them.

Be Kind, Not Defensive

Sam Margulies, writing for Psychology Today, recommends you avoid being defensive. In such intimate and emotional situations it is common for a spouse to lash out Margulies recommends you listen to your spouse without interrupting or defending your decision. Allow them to discuss their feelings and listen to them carefully. Let them know you understand how they feel. Marriages don’t end with one discussion, many will follow, letting your spouse expressing their feelings without recrimination is ideal.

And be kind when you break the news. Don’t begin with an accusation or criticism. You loved your spouse when you married them and still do, so you don’t want to cause them anymore pain than is necessary. Take a gentle approach and be compassionate, don’t say things that will worsen your spouse’s feelings of rejection.

Breaking the news to your spouse in the right can make a meaningful difference in you both approach the divorce. That’s up to you but when you need help with other issues, like child custody or spousal support, you can rely on a divorce attorney.