Attorneys will tell you that although there are “Do It Yourself” divorce kits readily available, they make up a small percentage of cases. More commonly, amicable divorces become somewhat hostile. Let’s examine the divorce from all three positions: both parties want a divorce, you want the divorce, or your partner wants a divorce. Knowing what attitudes you might experience or encounter might help make the process less traumatic.
A. Both of you want a divorce
If both people want a divorce, why are they fighting so much? The reasons that the papers don’t get signed quickly depend mostly on the type of motivations at work. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not that the attorneys are prolonging the process to increase the fee. First, consider that your emotions may still be in turmoil and you (or your partner) are not really sure you want the divorce. Many people want to be with their partner if the partner would only change. In certain situations, counseling can help the partners change or accept the partner as is. Many couples struggle for years, hoping things will change while resentment grows. If these couples had received marriage counseling early, the relationship might have been saved. When both parties want the divorce, there are issues as to who files, how to communicate, and how not to allow emotions to get out of hand. The court’s procedure by its very nature as a judicial proceeding often has requirements built into the system that tend to prolong the process, such as pre-trial discovery (required document & information exchanges), scheduling extensions necessitated by ever increasing court dockets. If things seem to be taking too long and you don’t know why then it should be a topic you discuss with your attorney. Additionally, you may want to discuss with your therapist ways to alleviate your stress while the divorce is pending. Even if both of you are 100% sure that you want the other person out of your life it is possible that your motivation has shifted to the issue of ‘fairness’ regarding the division of property, child support, or cash. While unpleasant to contemplate it has happened that some people become motivated by ‘revenge’ or ‘to get even’ because they perceive that they were wronged by their partner. A big clue that this might be a problem is if you reject offers of settlement which your attorney has suggested that you accept. If this happens it is very likely that you will hear words from your therapist that you should get on with your life and “let the healing process begin”. All the moments you spend in anger or grief regarding the divorce are moments stolen from your pursuit of a happy life with someone else.
B. You want a divorce, and your want to remain married
This is not an easy situation for either party. The party that does not want the divorce may feel unloved and unwanted and all the negative emotions that are associated with being “discarded”. You on the other hand may feel guilty for wanting out and not working on the marriage. The divorce does not require fault by either party, and making each other feel bad or guilty does not help. The discarded spouse may want revenge or to get even. This is normal, however, acting out to get revenge or deliberately hurting the other will hurt both spouses. The discarded spouse may then feel disappointed in himself for the act of revenge. A therapist will help with these normal feelings.
C. You don’t want a divorce, and your spouse does
Once it has gone this far, counseling may be helpful. Sometimes it is better to accept your spouse’s decision and move on. Only you and your professionals can help with this decision. In many cases the partner is in denial and has trouble realizing his/her actions may have contributed to the spouse’s departure. As above in “B”, the guilty party may be willing to give more ground in the divorce because of his guilt. Whether or not you use his guilt as a negotiation tool is your business. In most states, the divorce will occur if only one spouse wants the divorce. The court in limited jurisdictions might order marriage counseling.
The most important issue for parents to remember is their children. Forgiveness is essential for meaningful co-parenting.