Divorce Mediators of New Jersey

Roles in divorce: Male and female initiators and noninitiators.

The problems faced by men and women getting divorced are somewhat different. Similarly, problems faced by the first person to decide that a divorce must take place (the Initiator) are different from those faced by the noninitiator. So we have created some brief guidelines: one on the basic rules that apply to everyone, one each for female initiators, male initiators, female noninitiators and male noninitiators and one on alimony. Be sure to read the one for you. It may well help to also read the one for your spouse.


It is important for you to understand the distinction between initiators and noninitiators. The decision to divorce is rarely arrived at simultaneously by both spouses. Almost always, one person decides that they need to get divorced before the other recognizes the necessity. Literally anything can cause that decision, but once it is firmly made, divorce is essentially inevitable; marriage takes two people, divorce only takes one. The person who arrives at the decision first is the “initiator;” the other the “noninitiator.”

Typically, the initiator has considered the possibility of divorce for some time. Things go wrong, serious problems increase, and at some point the initiator says, “That’s it. I need a divorce.” However, an initiator rarely tells the other spouse right away. If you are the initiator, you think about divorce, plan for the future, perhaps consult an attorney or even have an affair. Ultimately, you get used to the idea and want to get it over with. Only then do you let your spouse know.

On the other hand, if you are the noninitiator, your reactions will vary from shock and surprise to fury at your spouse and contempt for yourself. You will almost certainly feel rejected and abandoned. Even if your marriage has been deteriorating for a long time, and you know deep down that it has become untenable, you have not yet done the work of reaching a decision to divorce and emotionally separating from your spouse. So your spo7use has gotten ahead of you and you must catch up.

Moreover, marriages are both families and corporations. You may be terrified about the loss of everyday interaction with your children or of what the future will bring economically. While the initiator sees gains in the future, as well as losses, temporarily most noninitiators can only see what they will lose.

So read the suggestions below with the knowledge that others have stood before where you stand now, and that with care and work you can have a successful divorce. The next page has rules that apply to everyone. Then there are some pages with specific things to keep in mind for men and women, initiators and noninitiators. Read the one of these that applies to you and at least glance at the one that applies to your spouse.

Remember however that these are guidelines, not legal or professional advice, not hard and fast rules. And while they apply to most divorces, there are always exceptions.

Guidelines for everyone »