Knowing the four stages of divorce can help you stay on the same page with everyone else involved in the divorce.
We wanted to share a blog article that San Antonio family lawyer and Collaborative Divorce Texas member Harry Munsinger shared on his website. Titled “The Four Stages of Divorce,” it looks at the emotional process that divorcing people go through.
As the article notes, “Individuals experience four psychological stages during divorce: deliberation, decision, transition, and healing. However, they don’t often experience these four stages at the same time—usually one party is ready to divorce and the other is reluctant to face the issue at all.”
This is important, of course, because if one person is ready to divorce and the other isn’t, the person who is more eager to divorce might push the other person too far in the negotiations, and the person who isn’t ready might want to stall negotiations just to be able to process it.
In a recent article on the Collaborative Divorce Texas blog from Jennifer Tull, she invokes the five stages of grief and notes, “It is nearly impossible for someone who is in the Acceptance stage of the grieving process to communicate well or negotiate with someone who is stuck in Denial, Anger, or Bargaining because they are perceiving different realities.”
And as Dick Price simply noted in an article asking, “How Fast Can a Collaborative Divorce Move?“: “We always have to remember that we can’t go faster than the slower party is willing to go.”
The most important stage he’s identified may be the transition. While healing is the final stage and the ultimate goal, how long it takes to get to healing, and how smooth the path is, can depend on what route a couple takes in determining how it will divorce. He notes:
Transition begins when the couple decides to use the collaborative process to end their marriage or one spouse visits a divorce attorney. The divorcer typically experiences anger during this stage, may be emotionally agitated, and often feels sad because the marriage failed. The spouse who is not yet ready for the divorce may still be in shock and denial, or begin experiencing delayed feelings of anger, sadness, depression, and grief during the transition phase. If the couple chooses to litigate, this transition phase may produce heated hearings and even abuse of the legal system. If the couple enters the collaborative process, they often begin healing immediately.
Knowing and recognizing the four stages of divorce is important in any divorce, but if you are divorcing collaboratively, there’s an opportunity for a mental health professional to be cognizant of where each party is in the process and how to enable conversation to happen, even if they are in different emotional places.
While it’s a good idea for everyone going through divorce to see a therapist to help get through the emotions of a divorce, collaborative divorce allows people who are experiencing the range of emotions to have productive discussions. While they’re often challenging, they’re in an arena that best allows people to get to the healing stage.