Ready to Divorce an Inmate

Marcelina Hardy, MSEd, BCC
Divorce is difficult and painful.

There are many mixed emotions when getting ready to divorce an inmate. You may feel relieved you will be able to move forward with your life but feel heartbroken over the breakup of your marriage. Divorce is never easy no matter where your spouse is living.

Ways to Cope When Getting Ready to Divorce an Inmate

Divorcing your spouse is a loss to you even if you are the one who wants it. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross (1969) identified stages everyone goes through when coping with any type of catastrophic loss in life. The amount of time you spend in each stage depends on your rationalization for the disolving of the marriage and coping skills.

  • Denial

It may be difficult to face the need for a divorce. Your husband or wife may have a life sentence; you know you should get a divorce but hold on to the hope for eligibility for parole.

  • Anger

You may feel anger towards your spouse or the justice system for the incarceration.

  • Bargaining

After your anger subsides, you might start to make deals with yourself such as if your spouse doesn't win the appeal for parole, you will leave him or her.

  • Depression

You come to the realization your spouse will not be released and you are sad your marriage is ending.

  • Acceptance

You have come to terms with the fact your husband or wife has broken the law and will live the rest of his or her life in prison. Just because your spouse has committed a crime, it doesn't mean you have to live in your own self prison. You feel confident you are making a good decision and accept it.

The Process of Divorcing an Inmate

Getting ready to divorce an inmate does not require you to complete any additional paperwork because of the incarceration. Visit your lawyer, fill out the documents, and have them served at the prison. It is easier to serve someone in prison since it is much simpler to find the person.

In some states, you may have to wait a certain amount of time before you file for divorce. For example, many states require legal separation for a year or two before you can file. Some states will allow you to waive this if you present it before a judge and explain your husband or wife is in prison for longer than the requirements for separation.

Inmates and Child Support

One of the difficulties of dealing with divorcing your incarcerated spouse is the reality you will not receive child support. The requirement for child support is not possible because your ex-wife or husband will not make an income while in prison. This can put a financial strain on you and your family.

Financial support from the government is available for families in need with children. Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) designed to help mothers and fathers, provides education or job skills needed to find decent paying jobs. In the meantime, federal funds provided to these families helps them afford to feed, clothe, and care for their children. Check with your local Social Services or Department of Human Services office for information on this and other financial assistance for you and your children.

Moving On

One of the hardest parts of a breakup is the process of ending the relationship. Once you have finalized the papers and said your goodbyes, you can start to heal. You will need to take care of yourself by giving yourself time to grief the loss of the marriage. Some people find comfort in keeping busy and planning for the future. Each person handles divorce differently and as long as you are working through it, you are handling it the best way you know how.

There is a lot to learn from your past marriage. Take it as a life's lesson and remember it for future experiences in your life. You may want to start dating again someday and you can take the characteristics you love about your ex and possibly find them in someone else. Just remember to look forward and not dwell on your past, you can have happiness in your life again; it will just take some time.

Ready to Divorce an Inmate