What Are the Five Stages of a Divorce?


Shared Experiences of Divorcing Couples

At Shaw Family Law, L.L.C., we are here to help you through every stage of the divorce process. We understand that divorce is much more than a legal process; it marks a new way of life for you and your family. We will be by your side through every stage of this process. Although this looks a little different for every family, there are generally five stages that experts have deemed part of the divorce. These stages include the following:

  • Cognitive separation

The cognitive separation stage refers to the stage that many couples go through before a decision to divorce is actually made. For many couples, this stage follows a period of frustration and unhappiness within the relationship. At some point during this stage, at least one person will realize that divorce is the best action to take and they will talk about the idea of separating. It is normal for this time period to be chaotic and tense, as there are likely many disagreements to work through as well as some built-up resentment.

  • Physical separation

The physical separation period is fairly straightforward, but due to logistics, many couples must remain together off and on during this time. For example, if the couple is still sharing living arrangements, they might need to do so even during the physical separation stage. For most couples, though, it is important for there to be some separation during this time so they can become accustomed to life without their partner. As old logistics are dissolved, new logistics and living arrangements will be established. This includes setting up multiple households, establishing boundaries, and discussing custody and visitation arrangements if children are involved.

  • Spiritual connection

This is a unique stage that many divorcing couples experience. When there is no more to fight about and they have accepted an ending to this chapter, couples often experience care and vulnerability for the other person in their situation. At this point, the couple has separated emotionally and physically, and in the best case scenario, they are able to put old feelings of resentment aside and work through the rest of the process together. Of course, there are times when a divorce does not end so amicably, but you can trust that our team will be there to provide support either way.

  • Legal divorce

Although we will be by your side every step of the way, this is the part of the divorce we will most formally handle. This is the formal, legal ending of a marriage by a court. The document filed at this time is called a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, and it allows one spouse to inform the other that they are seeking a divorce or dissolution of the marriage. A marriage is officially dissolved when the court issues a final judgment and decree. The document contains the judge’s decision on the issues of the case, and if it settles, the terms of the settlement are included in the judgment. The day the judge signs the divorce decree, the marriage is officially dissolved. The state will issue a certificate of dissolution, which is a legal document that provides proof that the marriage has ended.

  • Emotional divorce

After the document is issued and all of the papers are signed, the divorce becomes real both legally and emotionally. This is the stage of the process that requires the most emotional work from the couple. It is time to let go of former expectations they might have had about the marriage and form new expectations for the next chapter. Healthy divorcing couples use this stage to learn from what went wrong, establish healthy boundaries, coping mechanisms, and co-parenting mechanisms, and begin their new lives with renewed senses of self and family.

How Will a Lawyer Provide Support in a Divorce?

Divorce is certainly an emotional process, but the team at Shaw Family Law, L.L.C. will take some of those negative emotions out of the process for you, and we will help you gain a better understanding of what your future looks like. When you have more insight into legal and logistical matters, and you feel more relaxed in that way, you will then be able to focus on your own healing and in your own time. We will discuss factors like how the divorce will affect your finances as well as child support and custody issues if there were children involved. Most importantly, we will be the voice of reason you need as you navigate this new chapter for you and your family.

If you need to speak with a divorce lawyer or want to better understand what a divorce might look like for you, call Shaw Family Law, L.L.C., or contact us online.