When it becomes clear that divorce is going to end a marriage, a spouse could have an array of feelings, depending on the circumstances and the individual’s personality. It is not unusual for a person anticipating divorce to feel fearful, inert and unable to move forward. This is understandable, considering that the divorce process is likely intimidating and unknown, and that it represents the end of a relationship that was supposed to last a lifetime.
This kind of reaction to impending divorce can happen to anyone of any age, in a marriage of any length, to people of any gender or role in the marriage, regardless of the person’s employment status or whether he or she works as a professional, white- or blue-collar worker or anything else.
That divorce can trigger a grieving process similar to death in some cases is understandable. Despite the gravity of weighty personal issues as well as being out of his or her comfort zone, anyone facing this reality should consult an experienced family lawyer as early as possible.
The attorney will help the person to understand the process, explore the options, and begin predivorce planning that can position the spouse better for the next stages. Knowledge can be power and a foundation from which to face overwhelming feelings.
Once a lawyer is engaged, some of the stress may naturally shift to counsel and away from the spouse.
If the other spouse has already engaged a lawyer or even begun the divorce process, it is even more crucial to seek legal advice immediately to preserve legal rights and options. (Of course, if the other spouse has exhibited violent or threatening behavior, or suffers from substance abuse, it is crucial to seek legal advice as soon as possible to consider seeking an order of protection and whether new residential arrangements should be made, especially if there are children.)
Another reason to begin the legal process is that it can take much longer to get divorced than many expect, even a year or two, or more, depending on whether the case can be settled out of court and how quickly, or ends up in litigation.
Even when the divorce is not imminent, an attorney can provide advice about steps to take to protect money, assets and investments from being spent, used or hidden by the other spouse. This may be especially important when the other spouse has a history of dishonest or secretive behavior.
Getting a lawyer can be key to protecting children’s best interests. Perhaps it will be healthier for them to get on to a regular schedule of shared parenting between two households and not live with two parents who have grown apart or may be verbally hostile to one another.
Once the process is underway, a party can begin to think about the future. According to psychologist and mediator Kristin Davin, life after divorce can be an opportunity for “growth, renewal, change, and empowerment.” After all, if divorce is going to happen, something in the marriage is out of balance, and opportunities for personal growth will eventually evolve.