You've probably heard of the theory of six degrees of separation – that is that any two people on Earth are six or fewer acquaintance links apart. You may have even heard of its parlor game cousin, six degrees of Kevin Bacon, in which movie buffs challenge each other to find the shortest path between an arbitrary actor and Kevin Bacon.
However, did you know that there are also certain distinct phases that people go through when separating from their spouse? Over our many years of representing people in divorces and legal separations in South Carolina, we have observed that people go through most, if not all, of the following six degrees of separating:
- Deciding you want or need to separate. This first step just might be the most difficult one. There may be many reasons that you should separate from your spouse, but there will likely be just as many reasons making you hesitate or resist doing so. Try to decide on your own time and terms so that you can then move forward confidently.
- Telling your spouse. After you decide that you want to separate, you next have to decide when and how to break the news to your spouse. Typically, it's best to try to do so calmly in a safe environment, as you never know how someone will react to such news, especially if it is unexpected.
- Informing your children. Ideally, you and your spouse can discuss and agree on the best way to let your children know that your marriage is ending. Experts say that children often blame themselves when their parents separate, so make every effort to reassure them that it's not their fault.
- Notifying others (family, friends, etc.). Bad news travels fast, so you may want to consider whom you should notify and when. While you should certainly resist the temptation to badmouth your spouse, you will probably want be the one to let those closest to you to learn about the separation.
- Working through the process. The sooner you consult with and retain an attorney, the better off you will be. If you delay, you may discover that your spouse has conflicted out the best attorneys in town and/or begun to hide or conceal marital assets. If you believe an agreement is possible, it's best to work toward that while everyone is amicable.
- Finalizing it. It is important to understand that in South Carolina, you're not legally separated until the Family Court has issued a Decree of Separate Maintenance to you. Merely living apart does not protect you, and delaying the inevitable usually results in more problems and additional expense.
If you are facing a separation or divorce, you should seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney to protect your interests. Our firm only handles family law cases, and you are welcome to contact our office by phone at (864) 598-9172 or online by clicking here to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys to discuss your specific situation and to determine the options available to you.