Divorce can be overwhelming, from the immediate aftermath effects on finances, parenting, and social status. Getting the result, realignment and stabilization phases can help, though it still takes the time to recover.
The emotional process before, during and after divorce is similar to the effects of trauma. Typical reactions include shock, denial, guilt, restlessness, agitation, anger, emptiness, and hopelessness. The fear of the unknown future cannot be defeated except in time. This roller coaster affects sleep, appetite, concentration, decision-making and memory. You may feel ill or numb. You may want to be alone or not be alone. Rumination is likely.
It is difficult in the first stage to not blow up at your spouse and blame him or her for making you a victim. It may be impossible at this time to look at the relationship objectively. Problems resolving conflict in the marriage will be magnified in the divorce. The family and extended family will be affected.
The legal bills in the first month could pay for a lifetime of marriage counseling. Parents may be left with little financial cushion. Bankruptcy is possible. Divorce creates a demand for additional financial support, along with expectations. Many decisions have to be made including the value and disposition of the marital residence, vehicles, bank accounts, retirement accounts, stock options, bonuses and other investments. Each participant should gather information from an attorney or tax accountant specializing in divorce to understand the implications of one’s financial decisions, for example, on tax filing.
Parenting also changes. The urge may be to meet personal needs through the children. Children should not bear the responsibility of satisfying need for closeness and cooperation. Parents may feel hurt by the kids, or may feel guilty and indulge the children.
One of the primary decisions made in the best interest of the child involves sole or joint custody. A sole custodian means that the relationship between the parents is too conflicted to make decisions in the best interest of the children. A joint custody arrangement means that co-parents can work together. Parents need to work together to determine the needs of the children, like appropriate medical care, child care, parenting time, use of holidays, vacations and other special times, the location of the parent’s homes, and educational and religious training.
Divorce mediation may be used at this time to focus on direct and efficient communication in making parenting and financial decisions that benefit both children and parents, and which aims to reduce repeated visits to court.
Social status is affected by a sense of failure that isolates, and possible judgments from others. The goal is to retrieve positive self-identity and reinvest in relationships. Fears propel premature future relationships and marriages.
The other phase is the realignment phase, described by some as a three-year roller coaster ride. People fill time and emptiness with people and worry, possible avoiding the pain. Some continue the same kind of conflict with their ex-spouse that they had when they were married. In fact, one expert reported that one-third of those with “bad” divorces slept with their ex. Those in “good” divorces did not.
Therefore, when getting a divorce, you must be prepared well to face many challenges.