While it is important to have a legal consultation with an attorney when separation and divorce is being contemplated, it is just as valuable for both parties to work with counselors to attend to their emotions.
It is sensible to work with an attorney to assess the status quo regarding fairness and safety and make adjustments as needed. Then, the legal aspects may be put on pause while emotional work is done so that when the legal work resumes, it is likely to be more focused and efficient.
Divorce can be fraught with emotions. The stages of grief may apply because there is a loss of a dream or shared vision of a life together. Frequently, one of the spouses may be at a different place than the other on the spectrum of emotions. The pace of the professional work may be driven by the spouse who is “less ready”. It is important for the spouse who may be “more ready” to understand how their actions/inactions can impact the readiness of their spouse.
When children are involved, a counselor with training in child development as relates to divorce can help parents understand their children’s perspectives (which will differ depending on the age of the child and the unique capacities of the child). Knowing how to address the children at different stages of the process, and having a plan for what information will be conveyed, can make all the difference regarding how the child(ren) adjust(s).
Specific emotions, if not properly dealt with, can create legal and practical challenges that can make the road to separation and divorce rockier and delay resolution.
Denial can be seen where one spouse ignores requests from the other spouse to engage with the hope that the situation will go away or resolve itself.
Sadness can manifest in depression, which can make it difficult for a spouse to engage.
Fear may be present – and it may lead one or both spouses to hire an aggressive attorney to file accusatory pleadings in court. The situation can escalate to one where the goal is to “win” court hearings. The emotional and financial costs can become greater, as a result. Therefore, it may be difficult to “scale back” and negotiate.
Anger or placing blame may be at the forefront. Threats may be conveyed and the recipient may then take the threat seriously and react accordingly. Reactive mode is more chaotic as opposed to working through the issues methodically and with a plan.
Anxiety is frequently seen where one or both spouses are ready to separate into two households without any plan for where the children will live and how they spend time with each parent. The divorcing couple needs to have a plan for whether additional expense will be incurred with a second residence and who will pay for what.
Impatience may appear where one or both spouses may have a desire to be involved in a new romantic relationship and the fallback from doing this before reaching a settlement can create a legal dilemma if adultery is relevant in their jurisdiction. Regardless, it can be more difficult for the other party to engage in settlement if they feel hurt, jealous or angry about seeing their soon to be ex-spouse dating.
Guilt may lead one spouse to agree to terms that are not in the range of fairness with the hope it will ease the feelings of guilt.
There may be other emotions present that could be driving a divorcing spouse. If a divorce is imminent, most people want to protect their children and their physical assets. They hope to avoid a costly and devastating legal battle and want to be able to move on with their lives. These goals can best be accomplished by working with attorneys to have a status quo that ensures protections are in place.
In the meantime, the parties can be working with counselors to process emotions relating to the separation and the children. Doing so enables the attorneys to focus on the work of resolving the legal issues in a non-adversarial manner and enables the parties to look forward to a happier time.