If you are in danger because of domestic abuse, please consider contacting the following free, anonymous, and confidential national hotline to assist you in obtaining safety and identifying local resources:
National Domestic Violence Hotline
In America 45-50% of first marriages end in divorce. But while divorce is a fairly common occurrence, it is almost never easy. Even if the divorce is one that both partners want and is best for all concerned, it involves the death of a dream and a major life change. If the end of a marriage or other primary relationship is contested or involves disputes over money or property, it becomes even more difficult. And if the relationship involves children, and especially if there are issues around child custody, the world might just feel like it's wobbling on its axis.
Most people dealing with a divorce will experience three stages of emotions:
- Stage 1 - Shock, Denial, Anger, Sadness
- Stage 2 - Adjustment
- Stage 3 - Healing and Growth
Relationships with family and friends can be affected during this process, especially if you and your spouse had mutual friends or if there are many opinions surrounding your relationship. While family and friends should not be counted out entirely when considering your support network, you may want to consider additional resources to aid with the emotional impact that divorce can have on your life, such as a support group or individual therapy. Whether the end of the relationship was approaching over a long period of time or happened suddenly, it is not unusual to experience overwhelming emotions when coping with such a major life change. Professional help can be beneficial when learning new coping and/or life skills.
The Divorce Process:
In most cases it's harder to obtain a divorce than it was the marry in the first place, as legal unions have far-reaching impacts on things like government taxes, power of attorney, and health care decisions and coverage. The longer the union lasted, the more complicated the paperwork and negotiations may be in order to obtain "dissolution." Most states have a waiting period of at least 6 months before divorces are finalized, as well.
Couples involved in separation and divorce will likely need to make decisions regarding:
- Division of belongings and/or property
- Legal representation
- Living arrangements
- Custody arrangements if you have children
- Communication with your spouse
- Paperwork - how it will be filed, who will begin the process, and changes to legal documents once the divorce is finalized
These decisions can be made independently or with professional help.
Divorces Without Legal Representation
If you and your spouse do not share property or have children, you may qualify for an annulment depending upon your state's law and the length of the union. The annulment process is sometimes simpler than a divorce, and may cost less, so it is worth investigating your state's laws.
Whether you choose annulment or dissolution, if the divorce is uncontested by your spouse there are many agencies that will prepare the necessary forms and paperwork for a fee based on information you provide. It is important to find out whether the agency has the forms necessary for your particular state's laws. You may also want to ask how the agency will handle the situation if the court rejects any paperwork. Not all agencies are created equally.
Mediation can be very useful in helping two individuals compromise on decisions regarding the divorce details, parenting plans, and/or custody agreements. Mediators do not provide advice or act as lawyers - they are neutral parties that facilitate communication between spouses. Many individuals may feel more comfortable with a mediator because unlike a lawyer, a mediator does not control paperwork or get involved in court proceedings.
Divorces Requiring Legal Representation:
Your divorce may require a lawyer if you and your spouse do not agree on division of property, financial arrangements, child custody, or if there are communication difficulties. Some workplaces provide pre-paid legal services while others have Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that will offer a free consultation with a lawyer (contact your Human Resources department for information). If you have financial constraints, it is a good idea to find out ahead of time how the lawyer charges for services (i.e. is there a retainer fee and, if so, how much? will the lawyer work pro bono or for a reduced fee? can the lawyer provide an estimate of overall expense? does the lawyer charge by the hour or by the amount of paperwork, and is there an estimate based on previous experience?) and what his/her caseload is like. Legal fees can quickly add up and contribute to the stress of obtaining a divorce.
Local Divorce Assistance and Information:
Your local courthouse may provide a hotline or workshop to aid in finding professional assistance or filling out and filing paperwork. These resources are usually free and can be found on the state, county, or city court's website under the Family Law section.
Related Resource Pages on Band Back Together
Additional Divorce Resources:
HelpGuide.Org is a website that provides educational materials and resources to help people improve their emotional well-being. It has an excellent section on coping with a breakup or divorce.
Divorce Support - provides information on a range of family law topics including divorce and related topics, as well as state-specific legal information
Unmarried America - resources for single Americans
Divorce.com - Online divorce resource center
Resources for Parents:
Children and Divorce - This website provides many resources for parents, educators, mental health professionals, and legal professionals on how to help children whose parents are divorcing/have divorced.
Separated Parenting Access and Resource Center - provides information and resources for non-custodial parents
KidsHealth.org provides an excellent kid-friendly resource called A Kid's Guide to Divorce