By Divorce.com staff
Updated Feb 15, 2023
The decision to get divorced is just as impactful as the decision to get married. Before you move forward, you need to know that you’re making the right choices. The first decision you need to make is whether or not divorce is the right option.
If you decide that a divorce is best, you have many more decisions to make regarding the divorce process.
Divorce Is Not Your Only Option
Getting a divorce isn’t always a bad thing. Some couples compassionately divorce because they realize they’d both be happier pursuing an independent life. If you’ve reached this place with your spouse, divorce can be beneficial for both of you.
If serious circumstances like domestic violence are impacting your marriage, divorce is always the best answer. You shouldn’t remain in a situation where you or your children are being abused or feel unsafe.
If differences, stress, or arguments are impacting your marriage, you should consider whether or not you can work through them. If most of the tension in your marriage stems from the fact that you both have high-stress jobs and rarely spend quality time with each other, there’s no reason to rush straight for divorce.
Changing your career goals and taking time to recharge, both alone and together, can possibly resolve most of the major issues in your relationship.
Many couples choose to pursue marriage counseling before moving forward with divorce. Keep in mind that marriage counseling is only effective if you regularly attend your sessions and apply the tools and techniques you’ve learned from your counselor. It isn’t the counseling that fixes a marriage but the work you’re willing to do with what you’ve learned in your counseling sessions.
In some cases, legal separation gives spouses time and space to think. Although it’s uncommon, some couples come back together after legal separation.
Divorce Can Be Stressful
Divorce is one of the most stressful life events most people will endure, and its effects can linger long after the divorce is finalized. Studies on physical and mental health show that divorced people are less mentally and physically healthy than people of other relationship statuses.
If you’re going to get divorced, it’s important to make choices to prioritize your health. Consider seeing a therapist and picking up a few new healthy habits and hobbies.
Depending on the method of divorce you choose, divorce can also be very expensive. You may be juggling attorney fees in addition to your normal expenses. If you have to pay child support or spousal support, you’ll need to restructure your finances and adjust your standard of living.
It may take a while to get used to, especially if you don’t have a substantial amount of money in your savings or an asset you could easily liquidate to get you through the adjustment period.
You’re going to need to consider how the stress of your divorce would impact your daily life, your mental health, and your financial well-being. While you won’t know how you’re going to feel until you’re in the midst of it, it helps to brace yourself for the emotional and financial impact.
Divorce Can Impact Your Children Just as Much as It Impacts You
Even if you think you’re hiding your marital troubles or complicated divorce process from your children, they still know what’s going on. Children are heavily impacted by divorce. If they hear their parents discussing private adult business, they may feel hurt. They might feel tempted to take sides, becoming alienated from one of their parents.
Children may act out. Their academic performance may suffer. There’s a lot for them to get used to. Your divorce is substantially changing their day-to-day life and shifting their routines into unknown territories. It’s crucially important to be supportive of your children and only use positive language when speaking about divorce.
Listen to what they have to say, and consider enrolling in family counseling to promote the emotional healing process.
What To Expect in a Divorce
No two relationships are the same, and no two divorces are the same. What to expect in your divorce case largely depends on the current state of your relationship with your spouse, the method of divorce you choose, whether or not you have children, and the complexity of the life you’ve built together.
Your expectations need to be in line with the choices you make (or the necessary steps you must take) throughout the process of your divorce. It all starts with how you choose to get divorced.
Choosing the Right Method of Divorce
There are two ways you can file for divorce, and the way you file will have a significant impact on the way your divorce process goes. When possible, you should always file for an uncontested divorce. There may be situations where contested divorce is unavoidable.
Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce
Some states allow one spouse to pursue the other in a fault divorce. A fault divorce is a divorce where one spouse states that the other spouse did something egregiously wrong. It’s essentially a lawsuit and a divorce that occur simultaneously.
In states that allow for fault divorce, spouses can cite issues like infidelity or domestic violence as grounds for divorce. At the same time that they’re requesting a divorce, they can request a generous divorce settlement as a result of their spouse’s fault.
Fault divorces are difficult to navigate, but they’re also very uncommon. Most states allow people to file for divorce on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences,” which essentially means that the relationship isn’t working out and you’ve failed to make things better.
Uncontested divorce is a divorce process in which all of the important decisions have been made at the time you file for divorce. If you and your spouse can agree on marital property division, child custody, a parenting plan, and alimony before you file your petition for divorce, the court’s involvement will be minimal.
You could receive your final order of divorce in as little as six weeks from the time you file.
There are several ways to pursue an uncontested divorce. Some couples are able to successfully navigate the process without any outside help. Other couples benefit from the help of a divorce mediator or divorce lawyers while they’re making important decisions.
A contested divorce is a divorce where both spouses can’t reach an agreement on at least one major issue, whether it be parenting time or the division of marital assets. A contested divorce is also used when one spouse refuses to comply with the divorce process, usually by withholding financial information like tax returns, credit card debts, or private bank accounts.
The only way to compel someone to disclose information they’re withholding is by using the power of the court. Your divorce will have to go through divorce court. Court orders will hold them accountable throughout your divorce proceedings and reduce the chances that they’ll successfully hide important information.
You’ll both need to hire your own divorce attorney to navigate the process of contested divorce and attend a divorce trial. It’s time-consuming and very expensive. Some contested divorces last for years. A judge will ultimately have the final say on your settlement agreement, and there’s a chance that neither party will walk away satisfied with the outcome.
Creating Your Divorce Settlement
If you choose to go the route of uncontested divorce, there are several ways you can create your divorce settlement. The method you choose largely depends on the level of cooperation between you and your spouse.
Filing for Divorce Privately
If you’re on good terms with your spouse, you can sit together and complete your divorce paperwork online. You can use the divorce papers to file a joint petition for divorce, or one of you can file, and the other can act as the respondent.
This method takes the least amount of time, and it’s great for couples who have already talked through every important issue before deciding to divorce. It only works if you perfectly agree on every detail of your divorce settlement. If you need a little help making decisions, you’ll benefit from outside assistance.
Through Divorce Mediation
If there are a few things you and your spouse don’t agree on or are unsure of how to handle, a mediated divorce can be a valuable solution. A mediator doesn’t have the power of the court and can’t make decisions for you. You and your spouse are completely empowered throughout the process.
A divorce mediator is a neutral third party with experience in divorce law. They won’t take sides. They’ll listen to both of your concerns in divorce mediation sessions and help you explore your options. They can propose alternatives and solutions that will help you reach the conclusions you need to create your divorce settlement.
When you completely agree on everything, your mediator will help you prepare the necessary divorce papers that you’ll use to file for an uncontested divorce.
With the Help of Experienced Family Law Attorneys
Involving attorneys in your divorce can make the process more expensive and time-consuming, but it’s sometimes necessary. Couples with a family business or more than one family home often need the help of attorneys to create a divorce settlement that makes sense for everyone involved.
If you disagree on major issues but want to avoid divorce court, you can choose a litigated or collaborative divorce. You’ll each hire your own divorce lawyer to advocate for the things you want and need in your divorce. You’ll each maintain the privacy of an attorney-client relationship with your respective lawyers.
These discussions will take place outside of family court. They’re much more discreet than a divorce trial. Discussions continue until everyone agrees on a divorce settlement, and you’ll file for an uncontested divorce.
How Long Does It Take To Receive a Judgment of Divorce?
A judgment of divorce (also called a final order of divorce or a divorce decree) needs to be issued by a judge. When you file for divorce, your local court will give you a date for you to appear before a judge.
This could be anywhere from three to six weeks from the time you file the paperwork. It all depends on your local court’s schedule and how busy they are.
Only one of you needs to be present at this court date. Some couples prefer to attend together.
The judge will review your divorce settlement to make sure that everything is legitimate and seems fair. The judge will ask each person present to verify that the information presented is correct and that they’re satisfied with the divorce settlement. If the judge can’t find any errors and each person agrees to the settlement, the judge will issue the judgment of divorce.
Most courts don’t give people their divorce decree on the same day as their court appearance. The documents are usually mailed out a few weeks after the judge grants the divorce. As soon as you receive your paperwork, you’re considered legally divorced.
Divorce isn’t always bad. In many cases, divorces are amicable, with many couples supporting each other in their independent pursuits. Under these circumstances, divorce can have a positive impact on both lives.
There are multiple ways to file for divorce, including privately, through mediation, and with a lawyer. Deciding which method works best for you depends largely on your circumstances.
It’s important to remember that divorce can be stressful, both for you and your family. While the outcome is often worth it, it’s essential to weigh your options and consider which method of divorce will have the lowest impact on yourself and your loved ones.