Deciding whether to end a marriage is rarely a quick and easy decision. Often, couples know the marriage is not working, but they are not sure whether their problems can be fixed. In many cases, one spouse wants to end the marriage and move on while the other does not.
For these situations, discernment counseling can be helpful. Discernment counseling is not marriage counseling, where couples typically try to work on their problems with the goal of a happier, more fulfilling marriage.
As one Certified Discernment Counselor who is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) says, “Discernment counseling is a structured assessment process….designed to provide a couple with the information they need to evaluate their relationship and take action – either to pursue a divorce or to commit to a six-month course of intensive marital therapy.”
Key questions couples are asked to consider
While every couple and their issues are highly unique, discernment counseling typically begins by considering the following:
- What has occurred in the marriage to cause one or both spouses to consider separation or divorce?
- What have they done to try to repair the marriage?
- When was the relationship at its best for each spouse?
If the couple has children, another key question is what role they play in the decision. Does one spouse want to stay together “for the sake of the children,” or do one or both spouses believe that ending the marriage will be healthier for the kids?
Discernment counseling can lead to a more amicable divorce
If a couple decides after discernment counseling to move forward with ending the marriage, they can often do so more amicably than if they had not sat down with a professional and discussed the state of their marriage. Even if one spouse would still rather not end the marriage, they can at least better understand their partner’s feelings.
All of this can make a mediated or collaborative divorce easier to achieve. By avoiding the inherent conflict of a litigated divorce, couples can negotiate their own agreements, with legal guidance. If they have children, this can give them a strong start towards working together as co-parents.