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Divorced: The First Year is the Hardest For Divorcing Couples
A friend once told me that the time she was going through a divorce with her now ex-husband was the worst year of her life. I had been contemplating getting divorced at the time, and she warned me that it would be tough to go through it, but once the divorce was final, things would be much better. I struggled with whether or not to get a divorce because of my faith, and there were three children involved. I weighed the pros and cons in my head and with two of my closest friends for months and spoke with a financial planner, and two different divorce attorneys before deciding to go ahead. And my friend was right; it was the worst year of my life.
Average Time For a Divorce to Go Through
From my research, it would seem as though the average divorce can take anywhere from 6 - 12 months. Some states have requirements of a 6-month wait before a divorce can be processed. If there are no children involved, it's usually shorter than the 6 - 12 month period. If the parties can both agree on how to split property, it can also be shorter. But when there is disagreement, look out! There will be lots of money spent on lawyers phone calls back and forth, and letters being sent to both parties, etc. Your soon to be ex may take on a whole new persona due to hurt feelings, or anger over what you are asking for. And in some cases, divorce proceedings can drag on for years.
It's Quicker if The Couple Agrees
When two people get divorced, things can go rather smoothly if it is agreed upon. Not so well if it is one person's idea, and the other one is not on board, or not aware of the upcoming divorce before being served with papers. In the instance of one person initiating the divorce, the period the divorce is happening can be very trying. Many of my friends have gotten divorced I am sorry to say. They have experienced husband's trying to strangle them in front of the children, husbands stalking them and threatening any male friends that come to visit the wife, and some have immediately started sleeping with other women, almost to get back at their wives for initiating a divorce. Friends told me that people could change during a divorce and the worst comes out. While going through my divorce, I felt guilty for being the one to initiate the proceedings, so was more determined than ever to be mature and not succumb to any retaliating behavior.
Divorce Affects Many People Outside of The Couple
What I hadn't realized was that divorce affects not only the two parents and children but the families and friends and neighbors of both parents. Parents of the divorcing couple may have a hard time dealing with their child's ex- spouse because of loyalties to their grown child. Should they continue to be friendly, or disown the ex? How does this behavior affect the children? I must give my parents credit here as they never treated my ex-spouse any differently than before, except to no longer give him presents for birthdays and holidays. They still see him as the father of their grandchildren and treat him respectfully. They did not want their grandchildren to see him any differently than their dad, so my parents continued positive behavior toward him supported that. On the other hand, because I was the one filing for divorce, his parents were not so kind toward me, and it's okay...I understand where they were coming from. But it still hurt, and I hope that my children learned a better example from my parents.
And then there are the friends and neighbors. Who sides with whom when it comes to divorce? How do the neighbors treat the person that leaves the neighborhood to go to a new home? Is it uncomfortable for the parent who has left to come pick the children up in the old neighborhood? It depends on the neighborhood, and how friendly the neighbors are in the first place. But the person who is left out of the relationship may end up feeling hurt and tossed aside by those who choose not to continue a relationship with them. Hopefully, you will have some friends who are just yours, at work, or from childhood that although they may have done joint activities with you and your spouse, will always be by your side due to a shared history. The period of the divorce is not a time either spouse should be going it alone.
Divorce Proceedings Are Not Pretty
The actual divorce proceedings are tough. I have had friends who have used mediators, and that has gone well for the most part. But others have used two different lawyers, and that can be hard. Especially if one of the lawyers is more aggressive than the other, and chooses to drag things out so they can charge their client more money. That is hard for all parties involved because it drains finances and puts added stress between the husband and wife, in an already uncomfortable arrangement. And it makes things harder on the children because during that period they will notice the strain between the parents. Court days seem to be the worst if the couple can not agree on the arrangements and how to divide the property. If the court must get involved, the judge can have more of the decision than the couple, and there may be a settlement that neither party is happy with. And it is tough for a couple to sit in a court waiting room, across from each other, with tension so thick you could cut it with a knife.
If it's possible to agree with your spouse sooner rather than later, I would definitely urge you to do it. If you are still on speaking terms, sit down with him or her and try to work things out without lawyers involved. Figure out the visitation together, and if the children are older teenagers, involve them in it too so that they will feel a bit less left out. Some courts allow older children a say in where they want to live, or how much time they see the non-custodial parent, and sometimes they can even say they don't want contact with that parent. All of this also adds to more stress for those involved. Coming to an agreement together will lessen the time the lawyers need to spend figuring it out, and will ultimately cost you both less financially.
Counseling Can Help
It might be helpful for the involved adults to go to individual counseling during this stressful time. Counseling provides an objective person to listen and help a divorcing spouse deal with all the emotions, disappointments and anger a divorce is sure to bring up. It's also sometimes helpful for children to go to counseling if they are having trouble accepting the divorce, or are angry at a parent, or seem to be trying to work through abandonment issues with the non-custodial parent.
Life After Divorce
The good news is that when all the details are ironed out, and there is no more discussion to be had, the date arrives and the divorce is finalized. And then the tension lessens. Parents no longer have to deal with their relationship as husband and wife and can focus solely on the children and visitation. This can be a big relief if the parents are mature enough to keep their personal feelings for the other one out of the picture. Hopefully, if there is any pain caused by the divorce, the parent can begin to heal, and the situation will get better for all involved. I have seen this happen in my life and the lives of many others. There is light at the end of the tunnel once you survive the year of the divorce!
Copyright by Karen Hellier, 2012
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