The Day of Divorce: How to Prepare

Posted by: Shel 10 Comments

The Day of Divorce: How to Be PreparedFor some, the party is already planned for the night the divorce will be granted. But for many, no matter how much they wanted or didn’t want to be divorced, the actual day the marriage is legally severed is a tough one. It’s not only the official end of the marriage, it is also the official end of what dreams, expectations, and hopes were attached to marriage itself.

If there has been a lot of time and energy focused on the process of getting divorced, there can be an unexpected feeling of emptiness following the finality of the process. Even if you were fortunate enough to make it through the process without drama or a trial, having to say you are in court to get a divorce and hearing the judge announce that you are now divorced might bring on sadness or unexpected depression. I can’t tell you how many clients have turned to me at that point and asked: “Is that it? It’s over?”

Preparing ahead probably won’t make a bad day good, but it can make a bad day less bad. And that may be just the assistance you need to do to get on the other side of it without being totally overwhelmed. Here are six things you can do to prepare yourself for the actual day the divorce is granted.

1. Ask your attorney to explain the proceeding to you – even if it is a ‘simple hearing’ as opposed to a trial. What will it look like ? Will I be standing or sitting? Will I have to speak to the judge? How long will it take? Will anybody else be present? Attorneys do this all the time and sometimes they forget that what is routine for them is your first time experiencing it. No question is too silly. Have a clear picture of what you’re walking in to, how long it will take, and what is expected of you during the hearing.

2. Have a plan for what you will do after the hearing. Maybe you have a friend with a positive attitude that you can meet for dinner. Or some pals that you can do something with that requires focus – such as roller skating, bowling, or one of those group painting classes (with or without wine!). Or take the kids to one of those 3D theater cartoons and dodge the animated missiles with them.

3. Whether or not you have been journaling through the process, have a notebook or journal available to capture what the day was like for you – what feelings cropped up. Often the act of expressing those feelings in writing is very helpful for processing. It also gives you something to review in the future – because there will be a day when you look back at this day with the ability to appreciate the evolution and growth you have accomplished since. I promise.

4. Have realistic expectations. Know that it is normal to experience conflicting or painful emotions – even if you wanted the divorce, have accepted it is for the best, or thought you had already gone through this stage. There’s a reason it’s referred to as a “process.”

5. If you need to focus on future events, make a list and name it. 10 Benefits of Being Divorced. 5 Positive Changes I Will Make in the Upcoming Year. Friends I Would Like to Reconnect With. Documents That Need to be Updated. Recipes I Will Try in the Next Month. You get the idea – focus on something that is within your control, attainable, and enjoyable.

6. Plan ahead to be very, very kind to yourself. Make sure your favorite comfy clothes are clean. Have a splurge version of your favorite beverage on hand. And tape ahead that guilty-pleasure TV show so you can watch several episodes back-to-back if you are so inclined.

For many, no amount of planning ahead will make the day of divorce a good day. But some good planning can make a tough day less difficult – a day that possibly some good can come out of.


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  • Maria

    I would add to schedule appointments or dinner dates with friends in advance for those first few nights/weekends without kids!

  • hubby

    just as long as you don’t try in on me

  • Great advice, Shel. Knowing what to expect is so important. Not everyone lives this stuff every day.

    • Shel Harrington

      That’s really driven home when you see the lost look on a client’s face when an agreed divorce proceeding takes only a few minutes, Jill. It looks like a cattle call of litigants going up before the bench for their five minutes. One judge used to have two couples at a time “waiting on deck” for their turn while he heard a divorce at the bench until someone convinced him how insensitive that process was. It can be a very cold process which is made worse by not knowing it’s coming.

  • It sounds like great advice, Shel.

  • the beginning step of healing which takes years…

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