Understanding the emotional aspects of a divorce is just as important as understanding the legal process. In virtually every case there are two types of divorces taking place: the legal divorce and the emotional divorce.  One may be a little ahead of the other, but they are each important to address.  This is especially true if one spouse has gone through the emotional side of considering a divorce and making the determination to file for divorce, while the other spouse may be completely in the dark.

Being served with a divorce petition and then being asked what you want to do with the house, how you want to divide assets, and what the parenting time plan should be for the children are questions that come up almost immediately. While you may be struggling with the realization that the marriage is over and there is nothing you can do to stop the divorce from happening, you are also being asked to make important decisions that affect the rest of your life.

Whether the decision to end a marriage is mutual or the desire of only one spouse, the emotional pain of ending a marriage can often hinder the legal process. It is difficult to make weighty legal decisions when you feel as if your entire world has been turned upside down, sometimes overnight.

Accepting your circumstances and recognizing that the steps you need to take in order to not only survive the process, but thrive after the divorce, makes it easier for you to discuss with your attorney important financial and parenting issues. Of course it is one thing to say you will accept your circumstances and another to actually be able to move forward with the process. Here are some steps on how to address the emotional aspects of the divorce so you can concentrate on the legal aspects.

Choose a lawyer that appreciates both the emotional aspects as well as the legal process. Your attorney should be a trusted professional with whom you feel comfortable sharing information openly.  However, he or she also needs to be someone who will advise you of the pros and cons so you can make informed decisions. Sometimes you just need time to think through your options, and understand all the alternatives.  Having an attorney who understands your need for time, is patient in explaining the options and helps move the process forward on a time-table that is in your best interest is important.

Recognize you are good person. Stop blaming yourself for the divorce.  This is often the hardest step because you may feel as if you had done things differently, or sought counseling earlier, things might be different.  However, blaming yourself, or the other spouse, does not help you move forward and keeps you rooted in the past.  Start with recognizing you are good person and you are committed to making your life better.

Keep yourself emotionally and physically healthy. Before you can start to take care of others, you need to take care of yourself. Seek out a professional therapist to assist, friends who are supportive, family members who you can confide in and do not forget to attend to your physical health.  Exercising, eating right and engaging in daily activities, perhaps a new one that you always wanted to try, are all good ways to start the healing process.

Realize there are some things that are out of your control. While the decision to marry requires both parties to agree, in a divorce, only one party has to allege irreconcilable differences.  You can do everything right, try so hard, and still feel you have no control over the divorce.  You may not be able to control the legal process, but you can control your feelings and reactions to the legal process.  Recognizing the things you can control, and letting go of the things you cannot, is part of the healing process.

Refocus your energy towards the positive consequences of divorce. So often the thought of life changing is considered to be a negative consequence of divorce.  But there are positive aspects. You are not the same person you were when you married. Life has changed you and your wants and desires.  This is an opportunity to discover the person you are now and what you want in life going forward.


About the Author:
Marlene Pontrelli is a Member in our Phoenix office. Marlene is a certified specialist in family law. Her practice focuses on all aspects of family law including dissolution, post-dissolution, paternity, child custody and child support matters. She is admitted to practice in California and Arizona. She is a member of the State Bar’s Family Law Practice and Procedure Committee and is a judge pro tem for the Superior Court of Maricopa County in family law. Ms. Pontrelli obtained her life coaching certificate through the Professional Coaching Institute in 2005. She has extensive trial and appellate experience including appearing before the Arizona Court of Appeals, Arizona Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  Ms. Pontrelli has written several books, including the recently published Divorce in Arizona, She is a frequent lecturer in the area of family law and has conducted workshops throughout the country on time management and balancing work and personal life. Marlene may be reached in our Phoenix office at 602-285-5081 and you may review her bio here.