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Divorce Is More Than Just Legalities

All too often divorce professionals view divorce as just a series of legal proceedings. Divorce papers are served and filed with the court, attorneys request additional paperwork from the other party, the couple has court-mandated dates to meet and parenting classes to attend, attorneys negotiate with the opposing side, and ultimately, sooner or later, the divorce is final. At that stage, the perception of many of the professionals involved in the divorce is that everything is over and erased. They believe that people just go on with their lives, as though a book has been finished and put away. Unfortunately, the reality is not quite that simple.

For the affected couples and their families, the impact will be felt for a very long time. Some people will deal with the after shocks of divorce for the rest of their lives. Many will be damaged by a formerly dysfunctional relationship and some by the ugly and protracted court battles and settlements. People subjected to major life upheavals need time to recover. Certainly, they must attend to the mundane everyday chores, but they should not neglect their own emotional well-being. Families too, including children, may often need to deal with their emotional states, such as grief, anger, and depression to begin healing and living healthier lives.

It is important for divorcing couples to recognize that divorce is not just a well-defined set of legalities, but is a series of interrelated processes unique to each individual. These processes may include legal, emotional, financial, interpersonal, and practical areas. Depending on the situation and the individuals involved, some areas will need more or less attention. One spouse may move on quicker than the other, some children will fare better than others, but divorce is a drastic change for all people involved.

How can people help themselves through this deeply involved divorce process? Several ways come to mind:

  • Choose a non-adversarial divorce if possible. The method of divorce (litigation, mediation, collaborative, or pro-se) may influence relationships with the soon-to-be former spouse and/or children. If at all feasible, the least adversarial process should be chosen, to help maintain workable relationships with the other party. Even if a party chooses to divorce by a pro-se (aka: do-it-yourself) method, a reputable family law attorney can help an individual navigate through the often-confusing legal process and help an to ensure the person understands their rights.
  • Get help from the experts. It doesn't have to cost thousands of dollars, but conferring with a therapist to work through the confusion and anger will go a long way in helping future healing. Other experts could be a good divorce financial analyst, a reputable real estate broker or mortgage broker, a CPA skilled in business valuations or stock options estimating, and others professionals, depending on the particular situation.
  • Surround yourself with loyal friends and family members who are upbeat and encouraging. This is a not the time to be around negative colleagues or neighbors -they can just bring you down, and can often be draining.
  • Do something nice for yourself that doesn't have to cost a lot of money -something that may make you look better (a manicure), feel better (a massage, a work out, or a new music CD), or an upbeat and interesting book. Take a long weekend for a mini-vacation, or purchase a gym membership.

Understand that finishing a relationship and adjusting to a new life takes time - and work. Therapists tell me that although individuals' reactions are unique, many people make take one or two years, sometimes more, to feel comfortable in their new lives. Remember, this type of dramatic change is truly a process, which eventually people will finish and be able to go on to a healthy and productive future.

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