The time period leading up to a separation or divorce is often extremely stressful. Everyone's situation is different. You and your spouse may have simply grown apart, you may have been constantly fighting, perhaps things have gotten particularly heated, and there may have even been domestic violence issues. No matter the situation, it is guaranteed that the initial period of separation, although sad, tends to feel like a bit of a relief for a lot of people. You are no longer living with this person who has been a part of so much emotional turmoil and baggage for you, which can feel like weight has been lifted off of your shoulders. After that initial feeling of relief comes what a lot of people are not fully prepared for- the emotional rollercoaster that comes with going through a divorce.
We all know that a divorce is not easy. What many people don't know is how to navigate the feelings throughout the process, and what exactly to expect. Even the simplest of divorces that involve just the negotiation of a Separation Agreement come with tough decisions and heavy emotions. Those who have to see a case through lengthy litigation take an even bigger hit. No matter whether you and your spouse are able to semi-amicably settle upon terms for a Separation Agreement, or whether you end up litigating every issue of your divorce, you need to be prepared emotionally for the process.
Time is the one aspect of a case that seems to catch most divorcing couples by surprise, and also tends to cause the most stress and emotional damage. Depending on your county and the issues you have to litigate, your case can last anywhere from several months to a few years. Many people think they will file litigation and see resolution within a couple of months, so they are not prepared when their case drags out for more than a year. This time means more time of uncertainty about your future, more time you have to spend working with your ex-spouse, and more time that you have to spend focusing on the past without being able to completely move into the future. The only way to avoid this time is for you and your spouse to settle your case outside of Court in a timely manner. This often means each person making some sacrifices and leaving the marriage without something they really wanted. Settling can be hard to do, but when compared with the time and money that comes with fully litigating a case, it can be a great option for some couples.
Another aspect of a case that some don't have to experience, but most do, is the polarization between you and your former spouse. Even with cases where the parties have agreed on terms before meeting with attorneys, inevitably, someone changes at least one of those terms, causing friction between the parties. Going through a separation and divorce puts people in a vulnerable state from the outset, so when their former spouse begins changing their mind about certain issues, it is easy for parties to get angry and become polarized. Polarization usually causes a stalemate and pushes people into Court. To avoid this, be prepared that even if you think you and your spouse are already in agreement on how to divide assets, time with the children, etc. that one of you will change your mind, and there will be at least a small period of negotiation. Often times, before meeting with legal counsel, most people do not fully understand their legal rights. A couple who has reached an informal agreement, and then meet with attorneys may find that based on their legal rights, they want to make changes to that agreement before formalizing it. Don't use this as fuel to demonize your ex-spouse, no matter how unreasonable you think his/her request is. If you can both continue to treat each other with mutual respect, and can continue to try and see everything through the other person's eyes, you will get to the end of your case much more smoothly, and with a lot less emotional damage.
There are pitfalls throughout a separation and divorce that your attorney can help you to avoid to try and make the process as stress-free as possible. Your cooperation and relationship with your attorney will be imperative to avoiding unnecessary stress and negative emotions. Keep in mind that a good attorney will not sugar coat things for you and give you false hope. If your attorney tells you that the law is not on your side about an issue, this does not mean that your attorney is not on your side, or is not fighting for you. It simply means your attorney wants to keep you fully informed so that you do not go into Court or negotiations with the sense that you will come out with something that the law is clear that you are not entitled to. Not every aspect of litigation is predictable, but an experienced attorney will know how to properly advise you in an effort to help you avoid long and costly litigation. If you can learn to use your attorney as less of a fighting tool and more of an advisory/informational tool, you will find that you will get through the divorce process much quicker with a lot less heartache. Finding an attorney who openly communicates with you is key. You do not want an attorney whose office does not answer your calls and emails. No more than a couple of days should go by after you have reached out to your attorney without you getting some kind of response. If you find initially that you are not getting that kind of service, then you need to quickly consider a change in counsel before you get too far into the process. Your attorney will be with you from the beginning through the end of this process, so no matter what, make sure to choose someone you feel comfortable with, and who will adequately represent your rights.
Being prepared at the beginning of a separation for the emotions that are to come will help you navigate the process and come out on the other side with a sense of relief and closure. Your attorney is always someone you can reach out to to help you through the process, but keep in mind that the process may take a toll on you, and you will need the constant support of friends, family, and perhaps counselors. No one's path to divorce is filled with hearts and flowers, but prepare by understanding the process to come, by securing the proper legal counsel, and by getting into the right frame of mind, and you will come out on the other side with more peace, ready to move forward.