Just a mention of the word might send shivers down your spine. It’s a scary prospect. After all, you promised that you’d stay with together for better or worse.
Many of us with dysfunctional marriages still shudder at the thought of divorce. It’s challenging to give up on something that you once believed was going to last forever. You still hold on to your dream of living in a happy marriage one day. On top of that, there’s the societal stigma attached to divorce that might just push us to live in an unhappy marriage.
But sometimes these beliefs can be misleading. Some marriages are better ended. If you’ve been in a troubled marriage and are wondering what the signs are to start thinking about divorce, here are some key indicators:
- You’ve lived separately from each other for over six months and have realised that it’s for the best. You’re happy as an individual and don’t need your spouse’s company to complete your life.
- There has been a history of violence and abuse in your marriage, from one or both sides. You’ve tried couple therapy and it doesn’t seem to work.
- Your spouse is into heavy substance abuse and there are no signs of improvement.
- You and/or your partner have been cheating in your marriage. You don’t wish to be faithful and the thought of being part of the marriage is discomforting.
- You don’t communicate with your spouse. It’s been ages since you’ve discussed your marriage or life in general. You also keep secrets from each other.
- Whenever you speak to each other, it ends up in a fight. You lack mutual trust and respect.
- You’ve had to give up on your personal ambitions because your spouse doesn’t find them appropriate.
- You and your spouse no longer share common values that once made you feel close to each other.
- You or your spouse have changed into a person you dislike.
Before you file for divorce
Filing for a divorce will bring a permanent change in your life. So before you take the plunge, re-consider all your options.
Be entirely sure that you want to go through with divorce.
We’ve prepared a checklist for you that might come in handy before you go to court.
- Be certain that you cannot mend the problems with your partner. Fights and difficult times in a marriage can make it seem as though you hate each other’s guts. But are you sure that you don’t care for each other anymore?
- List your reasons for filing a divorce. Are these reasons valid? Will they hold in the court of law? Sometimes you can get so carried away by emotions that you fail to see the situation objectively. Share your reasons with a third party to get their opinion.
- Think how the divorce would affect your kids. Who is likely to get custody of the children? And how is that going to alter their lives? Have you looked at all the ways that you can make it easier on the kids? In the course of separation, you may not have had the responsibility of the kids, full time, but with a divorce, you may. What plans are you making for that? Will you be able to manage it, with jobs and changing schedules?
- Think about how the divorce will affect other relationships in your life. How will this impact your family, friends and community? How will you cope with these changes? In Kenya, there’s a lot of social stigma attached to divorce, especially for women. It also depends on what part of society you come from. Divorces are seen differently among people from the affluent class, compared to the middle class or lower economic strata. What is your coping mechanism for this?Think about how you will prepare for the difficult times ahead. Divorces are an emotional roller coaster. Once you divorce your husband or wife, you will have to deal with loneliness and solitude. Who will be there to support you through this tough transition in your life?
- Be prepared for the financial changes that come along with a divorce. Do you know your spouse’s income and whether you’ll be required to pay maintenance? Sort out the finances before you go ahead.
- Try separating before you divorce. It might be an option before you get into full-blown divorce proceedings.
- Ask a lawyer what steps you need to take. Divorce proceedings can be long, sometimes unpleasant and cumbersome and having professional advice will prove helpful.
- If you are in an abusive marriage read this guide to help you put a case together with or without a lawyer.
If you are feeling confident about divorce, seek legal assistance to go ahead with your choice. Here are some helplines that you can call*:
One2One Hotline: 1190 (free from any Safaricom line)
Kenya Marriage Counselling: 0721743977
Amani Counselling Centre: 0722626590
Discovery Counselling Services: 0700270983/0721513438
Filing for divorce
Apart from being a tough emotional journey, filing for divorce can be a cumbersome legal process. Once you’ve made up your mind to file for divorce, get yourself acquainted with the financial, legal, and emotional aspects. Be aware that filing for divorce in Kenya takes several years.
Under Kenyan law, you can only file for divorce after three years of marriage. You can, however, annul your marriage within your first year of marriage. An annulment means that you will be treated legally as never having been married.
Annulments don’t relieve you of any debt incurred in your marriage on behalf of your ex, do not make anything that you did legally within marriage, illegal after an annulment.
Some of the common grounds on which divorce cases are filed in Kenya are:
- Adultery – if you have sufficient proof that your partner has been involved in an extra-marital relationship.
- Abuse and cruelty – if you have been in a mentally or physically abusive relationship or your children have been abused.
- Incurable insanity – if your partner suffers from an incurable mental disease.
- Desertion for at least three years – if you have been abandoned by your spouse without contact.
- Imprisonment for life or seven years and longer – if they are jailed for at least seven years and longer.
Find a lawyer
No matter what kind of divorce procedure you’re likely to go through, it’s extremely important to have a reliable and experienced lawyer by your side. Someone you can trust and depend upon.
Your lawyer should have experience with cases similar to yours and be committed to your case. Discuss the fee before your lawyer starts working on the case.
Once you’ve found a lawyer, ask them to help you answer the following questions:
- How much is your divorce going to cost you?
- Will the divorce be mutual or contested?
- On what grounds will you be filing for divorce?
- Will you have to pay for your spouse’s maintenance?
- Will your spouse have to pay you maintenance?
- Will you have to pay for child support?
- Will your spouse have to pay for child support?
- What are your legal rights during this process?
- How long is it going to take for the divorce to be sanctioned?
Keep asking these questions until you have satisfactory answers.
Life after divorce
A divorce brings a huge sense of loss to your life. No matter how difficult your marriage turned out to be, it was meant to be something beautiful.
When most of us get married, we dream of living ‘happily ever after.’ A divorce crushes those dreams.
However difficult life becomes after divorce, it’s important not to see it as the end of the world. It’s easier said than done, but you should think of your marriage and divorce as two events in your past life. Nothing positive can come out of blaming yourself for what went wrong. In fact, after a divorce, you need to pick up your self-confidence and take strides into new beginnings.
Here are some tips to help you recover from a divorce:
- Mourn your loss. Ending a marriage brings immense grief and there’s nothing wrong with feeling and expressing that grief.
- Meet with friends and family and ask them to be part of this transition phase in your life. Let them know your fears and insecurities. Create a good support base for the future.
- Don’t let it destroy your confidence. In a lot of societies, there’s a lot of stigma associated with divorce, especially for divorced women. When you are married you also make common friends and when you get divorced, friends are forced to take sides, or so they feel. If people have cut off contact with you at this difficult time in your life, they perhaps didn’t deserve to be your friends anyway. And it’s very likely they may come back into your life again later – welcome them, if and when they do.
- Get help from a counsellor if you feel like you lack support.
- Avoid negative thoughts, like ‘my life is ruined’ or ‘I’ll never be able to be happy again’. Remember that a lot of people have had better lives after divorce.
- Stay away from substance abuse like drinking excessively or using drugs.
- Make plans for the future. Make a financial plan. Make plans to find that ideal job or to get fit. Start working on your plans by setting weekly or monthly targets.
- Find time for yourself. Be selfish and try out all those things that your marriage wasn’t allowing you to do. Become comfortable with being single again. Rediscover yourself.
- Find a passion or a hobby. It will help you think less about what went wrong in the past and rebuild your inner core. And it will introduce you to new people outside your circle of older friends.
- Meet people, old and new. Don’t confine yourself to your home and kids, trying to sort things out, alone. Talk to people. Seek advice from people who may be in your own situation.
- Love yourself. Do what it takes to find yourself attractive. The end of your previous marriage doesn’t mean you’ll never find anyone again. Take a chance at flirting and dating. Gain confidence and be positive.
While recovering completely from a divorce is achievable for some people, it can be a lengthier and much more painful process for others. If you have been trying but can’t get over your marriage, you can contact the following helplines*:
One2One Hotline: 1190 (free from any Safaricom line)
Amani Counselling Center: 0722 626590
*We currently list Kenyan help only. This will change in the future.