Stages of Divorce: Emotional, Financial, Legal & Social

EMOTIONAL STAGES

Outside of the death of a loved one, experts consider divorce to be one of the toughest, life changing experiences and losses a person could go through.  Researchers have determined that divorce is so impactful that the widely accepted five stages of grief can be applied to the divorce experience.

“The Five Stages of Grief” developed by David Kessler and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross are defined as: Denial/Shock, Anger, Depression, Bargaining and Acceptance.  Those five stages can be applied to each stage of the divorce process.

Denial/Shock

Shock that the marriage is over, denial that there has been an affair, denial that the love no longer exists.  There is an illusion that everything is ok, we will get through this, it is not happening to us, we are not one of those couples, we will work things out.

Anger

Anger over the affair, anger at the other spouse for disconnecting, anger about how this will hurt the children, anger over the loss of the dream.  The anger includes being angry at one self and angry at the other spouse.  Blaming often happens.

Depression

A mild to intense sadness over the loss of the love, the loss of the dream, sadness for the children, mourning, the erosion is felt so deeply.

Bargaining

If only I could have been a better partner, kept the house cleaner, made more money, been more attractive, cooked more, not gained weight, parented the children better.  I will make a nice dinner and we can reconnect, I will start working out, I will hire a maid, I will work more hours to bring in more money.

Acceptance

This is happening to us, this is happening to me, this is happening to our children and we will get through it.  I am going to be single.  I am going to be a single parent.  I am no longer stressed all of the time.  I look forward to figuring out who I am absent the other person.

Divorce lawyers in Dallas, TX have found that a very common situation seen by those who work with families going through divorce is where one spouse has spent months or years working their way through the emotional stages of divorce, while still in the marriage and without the other spouse knowing.  These people have already made it to the acceptance stage.  Then they file for divorce and ONLY THEN can the other spouse begin working through the emotional stages of divorce.

For the person who has just been caught off guard, surprised by the news of divorce, it is extremely difficult.  They are beginning the stages of grief, and in the midst of grief, they begin trying to work their way through the family law court system.  The last place someone would want to be, in the middle of grieving such a tremendous loss, is in a courtroom, litigating (fighting out) their divorce.

What we know for sure is that even good people, when hurting enough, altar their behavior in an effort to survive traumatic experiences.  We will be talking about alternatives to the litigated divorce in other Blogs by divorce lawyers in Dallas, TX in our firm Duffee+Eitzen.

FINANCIAL STAGES

It is usually very hard to separate the financial decisions that need to be made from the intense emotions felt during the divorce process.  However, it is very important to try to make rational, educated financial decisions instead of irrational, emotional decisions during the process.

It may be helpful to find a neutral third party person who understands finances to help advise you on financial decisions during the divorce.  This person should NOT be a family member or friend who hates your spouse.  This needs to be a person who has no ties to the situation and who can remain calm and level-headed during the process.

The financial stages of the process include:

  1. Identify all of the assets and liabilities.
  2. With your divorce lawyer in Dallas, Tx, start to identify what may be separate property and what may be marital (or community) property.
  3. Create a detailed list of estimated post divorce income and expenses.  Some items may be known and some may be unknown.
  4. Evaluate various options for splitting the assets and liabilities, as well as various options for post divorce income and expenses.
  5. Work through difficult issues such as what to do with your home and the family business.
  6. Narrow down the options to what is reasonable and realistic.
  7. Achieve a financial settlement that is acceptable to both spouses.

LEGAL STAGES

There are three legal stages of divorce according to divorce lawyers in dallas, Tx.

Phase One

Deciding to divorce and filing.  In order to legally begin the divorce process you must file a “Petition for Divorce”.  This is the document that informs the Court and your spouse legally that you are seeking a divorce.  It will not typically include any gory details or reasons why you want a divorce.  It will not typically include a detailed listing of how you want to divide the assets.  It may generally state who you think the children should live with most of the time, but it usually would not state details as to why.  There is a sixty day waiting period in Texas after the filing of the petition for divorce before you can finalize your divorce (other states may be different).  Typically it takes longer than sixty days to resolve a case, but it could be resolved that quickly in some instances.

Phase Two

The “temporary” phase. This is the phase between filing for divorce and finalizing the divorce.  At the beginning of this phase, a temporary parenting time schedule for the will need to be determined.  This can be done by agreement or by the Court if the parents cannot reach their own agreement.  This will not be the permanent plan post-divorce.  This is only the temporary plan while the divorce is pending.  Additionally, decisions need to be made about how bills will be paid and who will live in the house during this phase.  These decisions can also be made by agreement or by the Court.

Phase Three

This is the “permanent” phase.  Once the temporary orders are in place, you will begin working on the final decisions.  This will include the permanent parenting time schedule for the children and how the assets and debts will be divided.  In addition, you will be working on whether child support or spousal support (alimony) will be paid post-divorce and, if so, by whom and how much.

In order to help you work these things out, you may select a settlement process such as collaborative or mediation (there is further discussion of divorce process options later in the book).  If you do not reach an agreement with your spouse, there will be a trial and the Judge will make those decisions for you.  Most cases settle because taking your case to trial is very expensive and most people would prefer to decide their own fate rather than putting it in a Judge’s hands.

SOCIAL STAGES

Picking Sides

We find it disappointing and amazing how many friends of those divorcing feel like they have to pick sides during a divorce.  Most of the time this behavior is unsolicited.  Also, some church denominations hold the spiritual belief that “divorce is not an option” so people going through a divorce may be disenfranchised from the congregation.  It is an unfortunate side effect that in the midst of one of the most significant losses during a person’s lifetime, people also must experience the loss of their friends, neighbors, in-laws and even church home.

Both spouses need as much support as possible during this time and beyond.  It is important for them to tell friends, neighbors, in-laws, and their church that both of them need their support.

As you go through the divorce process, be aware that you may be forced to say goodbye to the support system that you have had and begin seeking out a new support system.

The New “Single Me”

In the midst of a difficult marital relationship, sometimes the fear of what life will be like post-divorce can seem worse than staying in an unhealthy relationship.  Fear of the unknown is one reason people tend to stay in marriages too long.  From a social aspect, you may be losing the person who has been your best friend, your roommate, and your social companion.  You may now be coming home to an empty house, spending more time alone, and going to more places by yourself.  It is normal to feel lonely.

As you work through the transition to being single again, it is important to slow down, to allow yourself time to think and heal, and to take care of yourself.  Use this experience as an opportunity to reconnect with yourself and become your own best friend.  You may feel like you lost your identity during the marriage or are losing your identity during the divorce process.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who am I?
  • What are my greatest strengths?
  • What do I want to do with my life?
  • What activities make me happy?
  • What do I like to do for fun?
  • Are there things I always wanted to do, but my spouse would never agree to do them with me?
  • Are there classes I would like to take to learn new things?
  • Are there groups related to hobbies or sports or common interests that I would like to join?
  • Do I want to get more involved in charitable activities or religious organizations?

This is a time to create a new, full and rewarding life for yourself.  Identify friends and family members who are positive and supportive, but also be open to making new friends.  Join a support group of others who are going through a similar situation.  The most important thing to remember is not to isolate yourself.

Be open to new activities and new people, but don’t rush into any new commitments.  Although people have a natural tendency to want to begin a new relationship immediately and eliminate the uncomfortable feelings of loneliness, force yourself to stay single and uncommitted for a period of time.

The New Single Parent

The life of parenting as you know it is going to change. You will not only be managing the new single you, but you will be managing the new jobs of single parenting and co-parenting.  There will be more responsibilities, scheduling challenges, a new household to set up and maintain, and conversations with the children about their grief and healing.

Time with your children will need to be focused on them.  The first year will be challenging.  Just know that the first year is not indicative of how the future will be.  You will eventually settle into a schedule and rhythm that works for all of you.  Find other single parents who have made it through the first year and ask them to share their experiences with you.  Remember, finding a positive support network will help life transition in a smoother manner.

For The Children

Social life for the children is going to change as well.  Identifying themselves as children of divorce may be difficult.  Ideally, you and your children’s other parent will choose to live close enough to each other so that the children’s lives can maintain as much normalcy as possible.  It is our hope that you will support your children by allowing them to participate in the same activities that they have in the past.

Should the two of you, as parents, choose not to live close to each other, the children’s lives will be impacted more substantially.  The further the distance between their two homes, the more challenges your children will face.  Distance will add the challenges of having a different set of friends at Mom’s house and at Dad’s house.  It may also impact the children’s ability to participate in their regular activities, or in any activities, if the driving distance is unreasonable.

It is our belief that if you choose to relocate to an area that is not close to the children’s other home, you should remain committed to helping the children stay connected to all of their friends and to continue to participate in all of the activities they are involved in.