What To Expect During The Divorce Process
Updated December 05, 2019
Reviewer Amy Brown
Divorce can be a harrowing ordeal for all involved. But most of the time, no matter how heartbreaking or agonizing a divorce can be, if the parties are even considering divorce as an option, then it is usually for the best that they separate.
If one or both parties realize that he or she is not in love with their spouse anymore, then there is no sense in stringing the other person along. Ending things as quickly and cleanly as possible is the healthiest thing for everyone. Of course, that's not so easy when you have children.
Issues To Consider Upon Agreeing To Divorce
Divorces can become very messy very quickly, which is why it is important to come to an agreement on as much as you can before you and your spouse bring the matter to court. The more you can agree on up front, the better. Some of the more important issues to consider right up front include:
- How will you split custody of, and visitation with, the children?
- How does your state decide child support and alimony?
- How should you divide up your marital property (e., things you bought while married)?
- Will you be permitted to move to a new location after the divorce is finalized?
- Which one of you will remain in the marital home?
- Would mediation be enough to get things done? Or would you both rather elect a court to intervene and decide on the more important issues?
The Divorce Process: What Is Mediation?
Mediation is a process by which both parties sit down with a mediator or a neutral third party. The mediator then talks with both parties and helps them try to resolve issues involving finances, the division of property, alimony, and custody and visitation of and with the children.
If the state is providing the mediator, then the mediator typically reports back to the court with status updates on how the mediation is going. The parties can also choose to pay for a private mediator, which keeps things entirely confidential.
When an agreement is made in mediation, the agreement is not legally binding. However, the agreement can be memorialized as part of the court's final order in the case, which then makes it binding. Even if you do not argue your case in court, a judge will still review the divorce paperwork and sign off on it, hence the inclusion of the agreement made in mediation.
Attorneys do not usually accompany parties to mediation. However, the parties may still wish to consult with an attorney on certain issues. Attorneys can also act as mediators, so long as they specify their role as such as part of the final agreement.
Know What You're Getting Into With An Attorney
A lot of folks rely on their attorneys to talk them through their divorces at every step of the way. However, what many people do not realize is that attorneys are often incredibly busy, carrying several cases at once. They often do not have time to return every phone call.
Attorneys are often thought of as therapists who will provide a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on when, in fact, attorneys usually do not call you unless there has been an update on your case. This is reasonable, considering they are attorneys and do not double as therapists. There is a reason the two professions are separate.
Your attorney does not have time to listen to what a jerk your spouse is being unless he or she is infringing upon your rights - something that would require immediate court intervention. Seeing your ex at your favorite restaurant with your former-best-friend-turned-ex's-girlfriend is not a legitimate reason to bother your attorney.
And when it comes to hiring an attorney, there is something to be said for hiring the ones with the best reputations. Yes, they may be pricey, but when their name is on the line, you can rest assured that they will give your divorce more attention than other attorneys might because they don't want to look bad if you are not pleased with the outcome.
That being said, there's often no way to predict how a court will rule, which is why it is best to try to settle things outside of court first. But if there is simply no reasoning with your ex, then it may be best to hash things out in court and allow a judge to decide what is best for your situation.
During the Divorce Process, Always Come Prepared
You may never see more paper produced in your life than that which is required for a divorce, especially one that is contested in a court of law. It's better to get the jump on things so that when your attorney needs certain necessary paperwork, you can have it ready in an instant. He or she may need to provide copies of these documents to opposing counsel or to reference them in a motion being made to the court.
Examples of documents that are almost always needed in a divorce action include tax returns, paycheck stubs or proof of monthly income, credit card statements, utility bills, a list of marital assets and debts, and copies of any and all documents related to checking and savings accounts, as well as retirement information and other investment accounts and properties.
In fact, it would bode well for you to gather and copy these things before you even hire an attorney. That way, you can go in with guns blazing, showing that you're ready to do this as quickly and as effortlessly as possible so that you can both move on with your lives.
Expect The Unexpected In Court
Many folks find it hard to believe that their divorces are not resolved as quickly as they would otherwise expect. However, the court in real life is vastly different from the court as it is portrayed on TV. In reality, the legal process can be incredibly slow and complex at times, and most courts will see right through a party who is deliberately torturing his or her spouse out of revenge and will call them out on it.
Additionally, being vengeful and keeping a case going for years on end just to drag it out for your ex is not only emotionally draining, but financially as well. Further, behavior like this is unhealthy, and it will only serve to dissuade potential future partners from engaging in what could have been a healthier and more fulfilling relationship with you.
You May Have Difficulty Controlling Your Emotions During the Divorce Process
You may do a great job at first of keeping your hatred for your ex under wraps, but over the course of the divorce, especially if you take each other to court, that dislike may become harder to conceal. Sometimes this fire is fueled by the parties' attorneys, who make the details of the case personal and develop a vendetta against the other party.
However, while it may be difficult to control these understandably strong emotions, it is important not to pass these feelings on to your children, especially while they're young. Too many parents use their children as pawns against the parent, and while it's not fair to the other party, it is especially unfair to the children who are the innocent victims in all of this.
It is important that you do all you can to not infringe upon the children's relationship with the other parent. Some parents will use utility bills as collateral. "Tell your father he can see you this weekend if he pays the electric bill like he was ordered to do in court!" Please do not put your children in this awkward position. The issues that exist between you and your partner are just that, and the children are not to be dragged into the middle of it.
If you do not have any children, then you may want to consider seeing a therapist. While you don't have to worry about poisoning the well by passing on your negative feelings to your children, you do have to worry about suffering the ill effects of sitting in a permanent state of irritation, heartbreak, and anger. Facing your problems and working through them is the fastest way to get your life back, to ditch those that aren't worth your time and to focus on the positive.
Accepting The Death Of A Relationship
Let's be fair. When a relationship ends, it's only natural to feel a sense of failure, like you could have done more to save the relationship, and that you "wasted" all those years with that person. You may also feel like you've temporarily lost your sense of self, as well as your self-control and clarity. And it may feel like the person you once loved has "died," and now an imposter is walking around wearing his or her face.
Grieving a divorce is like grieving a death, and a divorce is a death, in a way. It's the loss of something that, at one time, had so much potential, that made the both of you happy, and that you thought would last you both the rest of your lives. Seeing that all come to an abrupt end is enough to evoke deep grief similar to that which we feel when a loved one dies.
This is a very touchy state of mind to be in because this is when many people will react by using their children as weapons. Healthier options include meditating, eating right and exercising, and meeting up with friends or going out and meeting new people. When you do things to lift your spirits up, then you will be less likely to lash out or react poorly to and around those you love.
Are you about to start the divorce process with your spouse? Are you already involved in a divorce? Do you find the process to be so overwhelming and unnerving that you simply don't know how to cope? Consider reaching out to one of our counselors, who are available 24/7 to take your calls (even when your attorney may be too busy).
Working for a divorce lawyer.