Everybody's broken up with someone at some point in their life, and most of us know the pain of lost love. However, divorce isn't merely a breakup. It's a painful, wrenching change in your lives and the lives of your families and children. You're looking at your marriage's failure, so you should know some of the potential effects of divorce before you start divorce proceedings. What are some effects of divorce on your children? Your families and friends? Yourselves?
How Does Divorce Work?
Dissolving your marriage might be simple, but it might also be difficult. Much of it depends on the reasons for your divorce, and whether the two of you can continue to get along with each other.
If you and your spouse are looking at divorce, you need to consider the reasons behind why your marriage failed. Those reasons will help determine the type of divorce you wind up getting.
Fault and No-Fault Divorce
These days, most states no longer require one spouse to prove wrongdoing on the part of the other. That wrongdoing could be an affair, abuse, neglect, and other cruelty, or something else that’s entirely one person’s choice and behavior. No-fault divorces acknowledge that both people carry some responsibility for the marriage’s failure.
However, three states -- Arizona, Arkansas, and Louisiana -- have a marriage option known as a “covenant marriage.” If you enter into this kind of marriage, then you must prove wrongdoing to get a divorce. A few other states still have at-fault divorces, but no-fault divorces are pretty much today’s standard.
Contested and Uncontested Divorce
An uncontested divorce means both people work their differences out together as peacefully as possible. That includes things like custody of the children and asset division. Each party files separate paperwork with the courts and then parts ways. Since you handle everything before filing paperwork with the court, there’s no need for additional hearings or other legal procedures.
On the other hand, a contested divorce is that divorce about which we most often hear. In a contested divorce, both people have lawyers, and many issues go before a judge. This is a far more messy proceeding but is often what happens when the people involved can’t agree on how to resolve specific issues (like child custody and asset division).
Summary divorces streamline the divorce process to make it as quick and simple as possible. Couples who don’t have significant assets or children, and probably weren’t married for very long. Most states place limits on the amount of assets and debts the couple can have in order to get a summary divorce, and they can’t have any children, either.
Arbitration and Mediation
Couples who want to resolve sticking points without going to court often go into arbitration or mediation proceedings. In arbitration, the couple goes before a judge privately, who acts as a neutral third party, weighs all the facts and information, and then makes a ruling just as they would in court.
By contrast, in mediation, the person acting as the neutral third party does not make any decisions. Instead, their job is to help promote communication between the couple on sticking points and aiding them in finding their own solutions.
Like arbitration and mediation, collaborative divorce involves reaching agreements without taking things to court. However, instead of using a third party, both spouses hire their own lawyers who specialize in collaborative law. They sign a contract stating that they will work towards suitable agreements on every issue. If they can’t, then both attorneys withdraw from the case and the couple must start all over.
You obtain a default divorce when you file divorce papers, but your spouse doesn’t respond at all, generally because they’ve disappeared and you can’t find them. The court grants the divorce “by default” without any response from the other spouse.
Why You Need To Understand The Effects Of Divorce
Divorcing your spouse affects you and everyone around you. It affects your children, your families, your friends, and sometimes even your work. When you start considering divorce, you should also consider the effects it will have on your loved ones.
Effects of Divorce on you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse
Realizing that your marriage is ending is jarring enough. However, there are several effects of divorce both of you will experience as you go through the process, and afterward. You'll both experience at least some anxiety and depression as you adjust to no longer having a partner in life. In response to that, you may experience drastic weight changes. Some people are stress-eaters, while others lose their appetites with stress. You might find yourself eating a lot more (especially junk food), or hardly eating at all.
If you're facing a divorce, you're probably already experiencing some of this. It's okay to grieve the end of your marriage and worry about your future. What you need now is a strong support network, including a therapist who can not only help you adjust, but can also help you to understand and handle the effects of divorce on other people in your life.
Effects of Divorce on Children
Children are perhaps the most important consideration when thinking about divorce. You’re bringing a significant change to their lives that they may not fully understand for years, if ever. Your children depend on you for everything, and divorce throws their ability to depend on both of you into question.
Young children handle divorce much differently than adolescent and teenage children. They have a much more difficult time understanding two separate households with everything split up, and why they can’t be with both parents at the same time. Your child will feel anxiety and uncertainty they don’t know how to deal with, including wondering if they’re going to lose both their parents. They feel disconnected, and yearn to reconnect any way they can.
According to Dr. Carl Pickhardt, a psychologist specializing in parenting, one of the effects of divorce on your child may be regressive behavior. For instance, they might start wetting the bed again, even though they’ve been toilet trained for years. You may also start seeing more tantrums, more whining, more neediness, and other behaviors that call for more attention.
Dr. Pickhardt says that your priority should be to re-establish order and consistency as quickly as possible. You need to restore your child’s trust in you. Set up predictable routines and schedules and provide constant reassurance that you’re still as connected to them as you ever were.
Adolescents handle divorce differently than young children. While young children feel the need to re-establish a connection with their parents any way they can, adolescent children may decide that they only person they can depend on is themselves. Thus, instead of temper tantrums and whining, you may get anger and sullenness from your adolescent child.
To put it another way, Dr. Pickhardt says that divorce can intensify adolescence. Your child will push harder against you and work harder to pull away, asserting their independence earlier and more intensely than you might have imagined. What your adolescent child sees are two adults who have put their personal self-interest above those of the family.
Later in life, people whose parents divorced when they were adolescents may feel reluctant to commit to someone and marry them. They may also be more conflict-averse because they feel that conflict is what broke their family apart. This doesn’t mean that they’re forever “damaged,” though. They can, and often do, grow up to have healthy relationships.
What about the rest of your families?
Much of the focus on the effects of divorce centers on children, but that doesn’t mean others in both families don’t likewise feel effects. We all know the stereotypical jokes about having terrible in-laws. However, the truth is many families get along very well with each other and even become close. A divorce thus causes pain and anguish to people other than children.
You were a part of your in-laws’ family. After a divorce, you’re not. Dr. Allan Schwartz, a clinical social worker, and psychotherapist says that can create anger and resentment among members of both families, especially if you’re both angry and hurt at each other. The presence of children can exacerbate these problems between the two families. Unfortunately, you may not be able to salvage your relationships with your soon-to-be ex's family. Whether or not that's for the best depends on your unique situation. Be prepared for pain and anguish, and try to avoid telling people to mind their own business, particularly if you're trying to part ways peacefully. Remember, the effects of divorce reach deep within them, too.
Other Effects of Divorce You Should Consider
The longer your marriage lasted, the more likely it is that you have "couple friends" and other mutual friends. They feel the effects of divorce, too, since they're used to spending time with both of you. Furthermore, both you and your soon-to-be ex might be uncomfortable around your couple friends. Not only are they a reminder of your loss, but you'll probably worry about whether they're going to take sides. You might even fear that anything you say or do related to your divorce will put them in the middle of your problems.
Your friendships will change, and it's okay to be afraid of what may happen to them. Dr. Geoffrey Greif, who has studied the effects of divorce on adults, says to keep the lines of communication open with them. Let them know that you need them and value them, but that you will try to avoid making them take sides.
Don't Let the Effects of Divorce Take you by Surprise
The bottom line that the effects of divorce are far-reaching and profound. If you're not feeling prepared for them, some of them will take you by surprise and that's not a good thing in such a painful situation. Keep in mind that you have a unique situation and you may face things in your divorce that we haven't mentioned here. However, if you understand these common effects of divorce, then hopefully you'll find yourself in a better position to handle other things that will crop up.