What to Expect When Divorcing

By Dan Blair, a marriage counselor and family counselor.

Divorce can be devastating, from the immediate aftermath effects on finances, parenting, and social status. Understanding the aftermath, realignment and stabilization phases can help, though it still takes time to recover. 

The emotional process before, during and after divorce is similar to the effects of trauma. Normal reactions include shock, denial, guilt, restlessness, agitation, anger, emptiness, and hopelessness. The fear of the unknown future cannot be overcome except in time. This roller coaster affects sleep, appetite, concentration, decision-making and memory. You may feel ill or numb. You may want to be alone or not be alone. Rumination is likely.

It is difficult in the first stage to not blow up at your spouse and blame him or her for making you a victim. It may be impossible at this time to look at the relationship objectively. Problems resolving conflict in the marriage will be magnified in the divorce. The family and extended family will be affected.

The legal bills in the first month could pay for a lifetime of marriage counseling. Parents may be left with little financial cushion. Bankruptcy is possible. Divorce creates a demand for additional financial support, along with expectations. Many decisions have to be made including the value and disposition of the marital residence, vehicles, bank accounts, retirement accounts, stock options, bonuses and other investments. Each participant should gather information from an attorney or tax accountant specializing in divorce to understand the implications of one’s financial decisions, for example, on tax filing.

Parenting also changes. The urge may be to meet personal needs through the children. Children should not bear the responsibility of satisfying need for closeness and cooperation. Parents may feel hurt by the kids, or may feel guilty and indulge the children.

One of the primary decisions made in the best interest of the child involves sole or joint custody. A sole custodian means that the relationship between the parents is too conflicted to make decisions in the best interest of the children. A joint custody arrangement means that co-parents can generally work together. Parents need to work together to determine the needs of the children, like appropriate medical care, child care, parenting time, use of holidays, vacations and other special times, location of the parent’s homes, and educational and religious training.

Divorce mediation may be used at this time to focus on direct and effective communication in making parenting and financial decisions that benefit both children and parents, and which aims to reduce repeated visits to court.

Social status is affected by a sense of failure that isolates, and possible judgments from others. The goal is to retrieve positive self-identity and reinvest in relationships. Fears propel premature future relationships and marriages.

The second phase is the realignment phase, described by some as a three-year roller coaster ride. People fill time and emptiness with people and worry, possible avoiding the pain. Some continue the same kind of conflict with their ex-spouse that they had when they were married. In fact, one expert reported that one-third of those in “bad” divorces slept with their ex. Those in a “good” divorce did not. Recovering financially takes time, and may involve major changes like selling the home or working more than ever during this time of loss, change and demand. In the process of acceptance, a question needs answering: What did the divorce solve or not solve for me?

Protecting the children from the harmful side of divorce is often neglected, sometimes unintentionally. The goal under most circumstances should be consistent and calm involvement from each parent in each child’s life. Most children on some level wish for a relationship with both parents. Each parent can take part in not only providing financially but also providing influence on moral, social and educational development. Ideally, contact and affection would be unhampered and each parent would not get in the way of the child’s own developing sense of perception, and feelings about the other parent. Parents would not criticize each other within hearing range, or to put the kids in the middle by making them messengers (delivering positive or negative messages can feel like a burden to kids, when the responsibility to communicate belongs to the parents). Another rule to follow is to not tell the kids about future plans that will affect the other parent without talking to the other parent first.

Socially, both women and men tend to turn to women for support. Social status is possibly viewed through the subtle influence of sexism and ageism, discriminating against older women. Younger women are often more of a “package deal” with their children.

Stabilization can take five years after divorce, unless one is in a blended family which can take another five to seven years. Relationship patterns become solidified, along with possible distance between non-custodial parent and child. Children almost never give up their hope and connection to be with both parents.

The author Dan Blair is a Divorce Counselor, Divorce Mediator and Parenting Coordinator at Blair Counseling and Mediation.

 

Resource:

“The Postdivorce Family” by Fredda Herz Brown in The Changing Family Life Cycle ed. by Carter and McGoldrick.

 

5 thoughts on “What to Expect When Divorcing”

  1. In Maryland, each parent is responsible for the support of minor children. The legal duties of financial child support are based upon the needs of the child in conjunction with the abilities of the parents as dictated by income and assets owned. The financial goal is to help families achieve self-sufficiency because non-payment of child support is a key factor contributing to the impoverishment of children. Each are an important part of a combined effort to obtain a fair distribution of financial responsibility so the child(ren) may live in a manner similar to that which existed before the divorce. While every situation is unique, the one common denominator all parents must remember is the Court’s direction to provide for “the best interests of the child.” In deliberation of child support issues, the Court will consider many different variables especially as they address the terms of any marital settlement agreement between the parents, including any provisions for payments of marital debts, mortgages, college education expenses, the right to occupy the family home, and any other financial terms, as well as the number of children in the household. Additionally, the family home may be awarded to the parent who has custody of the child(ren) to enable the child to continue to live in the environment and community that is familiar to the child(ren). [Annotated Code of Mary-land; Family Law, Sections 8-206, 12-101, 12-201, 12-202, 12-203, and 12-204 and Maryland Rules; Rule 9-206 (Child Support Guidelines)].

  2. Emotionally, mentally and phyiscal exhausting, grief for the loss of the person but they are still there, depression and anxiety, fear for the future, paranoia about almost anything, shock, anger, loneliness and isolation., loss of confidence and self esteem then the dirty tactics start, you realise any promises made whatever they may be will not be kept. Then the solicitor you appoint to help you get a fair share, totals up all the matrimonial assets and then know exactly what you can afford to pay for their services leaving you with little or nothing and expects you to be grateful, you realise that yours’ and their’ solicitors are working hand in hand prior to court not to get the best deal for their client but to barter for an agreement and if one party won’t budge on something at all and demands simple clauses like not being contacted at work or having their employers contacted before they agree, what it really means is that when they fail to pay court awarded maintenance, you have to spend 8 years fighting a clause before you can get an Attachment of Earnings order ( which involves contacting their employer)Oh boy is it stressful, if you survive and if you do you may still end up a gibbering wreck or an alcoholic or addicted to perscription medication or just not trusting anyone, so it totally changes your outlook, your relationships and in my case a total fear of any type of commitent.It isn’t long before you realise that court orders and judgements mean nothing and will not be honoured by your ex or soon to be ex and the courts will do little or nothing about it .and that legal justice is non existent.You notice married friends keeping away thinking you are all of a sudden after their husbands, people crossing the street so they don’t have to speak to you, invites from friends drop off so more paranoia sets in and so you avoid them.My ex told our kids, I had cheated throughout our 24 year marriage several times and he had always forgiven me but I never had, I never even thought about anyone else but him, I loved him to bits, but he put enough doubt in their mind, reminding them of times ( a week or two) he was not at home when they were younger, saying he had left me several times because of my affairs, the reality was he was away on business and we spoke everyday on the phone .and I could go on.10 years on I have never gone out with another guy, it frightens me to death, he re-married 2 months after the divorce the girlfriend he told the kids he met after he left me, reality is he was setting up a new home 6 months prior to leaving me, re-mortgaging our paid for home and hiding the money in new accounts he set up, emptying our joint bank accounts, forging my signature on our share certificates and cashing them in, selling our second home, emptying our childrens trust accounts you name it he did it, all to stop me getting anything, yet it was all my money which purchased our first home. if you want to get away with criminal activity it is easy to do it when you are divorcing as it is a civil case and you just haven’t got the energy or the money to fight a criminal case and because of the divorce the police and the CPS just don’t want to know ..and when the court awarded me the house because of his deceptivenss, it means you sell it, then pay off the mortgage ( he took out and hid) and get the very little left which goes to pay solicitors fees , so you end up with nothing.I had two friends who listened, gave me a shoulder to cry on ( when I had the energy) they accepted me whatever mood I was in, whatever I ranted about, arranged simple things like a pub meal or paid for an eyelash tint, they would sit and listen for hours and bless them smile and welcome me everytime I called, they encouraged me to fight and not give up and gave me some hope that I was not totally mad however bad it looked or sounded, they believed in me they were real GOLD friends.Just be there, listen and believe in your friend.

  3. The determination is also used in proceedings which determine legal obligations and entitlements, such as when a child is born outside of marriage, when grandparents assert rights with respect to their grandchildren, and when biological parents assert rights with respect to a child who was given up for adoption.

  4. Using a mediator to help parents from divided homes to resolve differences is becoming increasingly popular. The reason for the popularity is that it works. Parents who participate in making decisions and feel their concerns are heard are more likely to comply with a mediated agreement than a court order. This encourages parents to work together, and this is good for the children. Research has proven repeatedly that children make a better adjustment to divorce when they know their parents communicate and work together for their best interests. However, some continue to think of mediation as a fad. For others, mediation is a viable alternative to returning to court every year or two to settle disputes. While the process is clearly not a panacea for all the ills that trouble divorced families and their children, for many it is an effective method of resolving disputes.

  5. Nebraska law requires all divorcing parents to attend a basic parenting class soon after the start of the case. The class provides parents with information about parenting plans, mediation, the effects of divorce on children, and the legal process of divorce. In some cases, the court may require a parent to attend more than one class. Parents will have the opportunity to develop their own parenting arrangements, and if they are able to agree on a plan the court will usually adopt it. If they are unable to agree, they must attend mediation, where a neutral third party will help them to develop a plan. If domestic abuse is a concern the court will order a modified type of mediation where a trained mediator speaks to each parent separately rather than meeting with the parents together. If the parents are still unable to agree on a plan after mediation, the court will develop a plan.

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