Contemplating Counseling Before Filing for Divorce: An In-depth Perspective

I was recently listening to an online class about couples therapy and the therapist, with over 30-year experience, was echoing what I already knew.  Most of the time, people wait too late. They have already made the decision to divorce and one or both parties think they owe it to themselves to try one last ditch effort. If both parties aren’t fully invested in the therapeutic relationship, it’s not likely to work.

How Can Couples Counseling Aid in the Divorce Process?

That’s not to say that couples counseling can’t be productive to the divorce process.  Sometimes it’s an important part of one of the parties accepting that the marriage is over.  Or it could be a way for the parties to work through trauma or betrayal in the marriage.  If there are children involved, improving the relationship is always helpful. The parties will need to be able to be civil to each other for the children’s best interest even if they hate each other.  Working with a licensed professional can be effective when it comes to managing hurt feelings and moving through it.

Addressing the Question: Should You Seek Counseling Before Filing for Divorce?

Some clients come in and ask me if they should go to counseling before they file for divorce.  I can’t make that determination for them but there is certainly no requirement.  I know it can be heart breaking to face the end of your marriage but ask yourself if you are prolonging the inevitable? Do you know you no longer want to be married to your spouse?  Have you been dealing with the same issue during the marriage with no change?  If so, dragging your spouse to counseling isn’t likely to make the difference.

The Risk of Disclosures in Counseling: A Look at the Alabama Divorce Proceedings

Keep in mind that the disclosures you make during the process can be used against you in litigation. Most of the time, unless custody is at issue, counseling records aren’t requested but if fault is at issue an argument could be made that they are necessary.   Alabama is a no-fault state, but parties can bring in issues related to infidelity, substance abuse, pornography, physical abuse, and mental illness (this is a non-inclusive list) to impact the property settlement.  Fault can be considered when addressing property distribution in Alabama.   I don’t want to dissuade you from being honest but it’s also crucial you know how this could impact you down the road.

The Court’s Perception of Couples Therapy Attempts in Divorce

If you think that the court will be impressed that you attempted therapy before you filed for divorce, that’s not a good reason either.   The truth is the court doesn’t have time to evaluate who did the most work to keep the marriage together and that’s not their role.  They are there to divide the assets and liabilities and to decide what’s best for the children.   You don’t have to convince anyone (other than perhaps yourself) that you tried to keep the marriage together.

The Decision to Undergo Couples Counseling During Divorce

Should you go to couples counseling during the divorce process?, this is up to you, but if you think you can salvage a better relationship for the children it can be productive. If you are still holding out hope that your marriage will be saved, once the divorce process has begun it can be counterintuitive. There are options in some courts of placing a case on the administrative docket to let the parties work out whether they intend to go through with it. But this isn’t guaranteed. I had a case recently where the Judge denied our request.

The Importance of Clarity and Dialogue Prior to Couples Counseling

In short, before you make the decision to embark on couples counseling, my advice is to be very clear about what outcomes you desire.  If at all possible, have an open dialogue with your spouse and make sure you are being honest with each other about what is to gain.


A respected Huntsville family law attorney with more than 20 years’ experience, Leigh Daniel is known for her positive attitude and her skills in the courtroom. She prides herself in the care and compassion that she and her team put into every case. Her goal is to instill a sense of confidence in her clients so they know success is on the horizon. As an author, inspirational speaker, coach, and founder of Project Positive Change, Leigh stays focused on the positive impact she can make on every client’s case.