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Just like marriage, you should be fully committed before you take a big step like divorce. No attorney wants to initiate a divorce for a client only to find out that the client really isn't ready to take that step. It can make the entire process much more drawn-out and painful.

So, should you consider marriage counseling before you head for the divorce attorney's office? Is it worth it? Does it ever work?

Sometimes. Like marriage, counseling isn't for everyone. Here's what you should know:

  • Almost 50 percent of married couples have participated in some kind of counseling with their spouses.
  • Often, the focus of the counseling centers around helping a couple communicate better. Some spouses need to learn to listen more effectively, while others need to learn to be honest about their feelings -- even when those feelings may hurt their partners.
  • Counseling cannot "fix" deep-seated problems in a relationship when a couple is deeply incompatible. It also can't help a couple who simply has different life goals, values or morals.
  • Both members of the couple have to be willing to do a lot of painful soul-searching and emotional work. The therapist isn't going to be able to do it for them.
  • Counseling isn't likely to work if one half of the couple simply wants the therapist to tell the other spouse he or she is "wrong."
  • Sometimes, individual counseling is actually better -- or necessary in addition to couple's counseling. That's especially so when one or both halves of a couple have independent emotional issues that are impacting the relationship in a negative way.
  • Sometimes the end result of couple's counseling is that the couple realizes that they do, in fact, want a divorce.

If that happens, guess what? It's okay. Ultimately, the goal of counseling is to come out with a clearer understanding of your goals and what will make you happy. If divorce is necessary, you can then get an attorney to assist you.

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