Why Marriages End and What to Do Next


This is a difficult topic, but sadly, one many couples face. And while it’s hard to think about, it’s best to just tackle it head on. Many assume that there is a singular event or action that leads to divorce. But in my 25+ years as a lawyer, it’s my experience that one singular event or action is just the last straw in an already suffering marriage, not the cause of the divorce. Of course, there are exceptions – an addiction or family violence can certainly be the singular cause of a divorce. But the one that surprises people is infidelity.

This is hard for some to hear, but an affair is rarely the cause of divorce. Instead, what really happens is that couples drift apart over time. Maybe after children come along, they realize that they have very different parenting styles. Or maybe as they get older and develop their careers, they realize that they have very different opinions about money management. Maybe one is a spender and one is a saver. And maybe they just don’t spend enough time together as a couple but instead, give all of their time to their children rather than saving some for each other. When these things happen and the couple drifts apart, it’s not uncommon for one or both of them to look elsewhere for companionship. And so, the extramarital relationship becomes a symptom of a marriage that was already in trouble, not the reason for the trouble.

As an attorney helping couples in divorce, if I had one piece of advice, it would be this: start working on your marriage from the beginning. Carve out time for each other. If you learn that you have different parenting or money management styles, embrace counseling and find your common ground. If your communication with one another is less than perfect, get some help. And give it your all. (A wise client once told me that marriage is not a 50/50 endeavor – each has to give 100%.)

But what if it’s too late? Or what if all of your efforts didn’t work? What if divorce is the only option? Just because your marriage is ending doesn’t mean you have togo to war. War is the traditional courtroom system of ending a marriage – exchange information and then start horse trading the components of your life. How much time you will each have with your children. How much of the bank accounts. How much of the home equity. How much of the retirement accounts. Who pays how much child support. Whether there will be spousal support.

These are all very emotional issues to divorcing couples, but unfortunately, the courtroom system does little more than reduce your life to an excel spreadsheet and the names and ages of your children to a piece of paper.  Judges don’t have time to consider the why behind what you want or need when getting a divorce. They just need to move cases off of their dockets. That’s not commentary about judges; that’s just the system they were given to manage.

Choosing a Collaborative Divorce as the process by which to end your marriage is a way to honor the life you have built together without burning everything to the ground. Instead of spending your hard-earned money fighting with one another about who should get what, your Collaboratively-trained attorneys will work together to meet goals that you each have worked on to resolve your divorce. Instead of tugging your kids back in forth in a cookie-cutter schedule that a group of legislators came up with, you and your spouse get to decide what works best for your family. You get to control the outcome. You get to control the schedule. You get to control the costs.

Rhonda Cleaves is a Credentialed Collaborative Divorce Attorney representing clients throughout Collin, Dallas, Denton, and Tarrant Counties. For more information, call (972) 403-0333.

Rhonda Cleaves

Rhonda began practicing law in 1995. She left a successful civil trial practice in 2005 to concentrate on family law — specifically, helping families transition to postdivorce life. She now practices exclusively in this area.

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