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A Timely Divorce

Even the decision of when to proceed with the divorce will create very different choices and outcomes. When a couple can communicate well enough at the time of breakup to make decisions together respectfully and cooperatively, they are in the best frame of mind to proceed. However, if emotions are still running high and a couple’s communication is so mired in conflict that they can’t make even simple decisions together, they usually benefit by completing the necessary temporary agreements initially and waiting a reasonable time to tackle the more complex, difficult and permanent decisions of the divorce. Time often heals wounds and soothes frayed nerves. Allowing a reasonable time before proceeding with all the details and decisions within a divorce can be very healing, reduce stress and allow for the best results and possibilities to emerge.

When to proceed?

Timing can mean everything to a divorce process, a point that I constantly emphasize to my clients. It is critical to honor and respect each other’s individual timing in moving through the divorce. Being aware of what each person needs and not trying to go faster than the slowest spouse can reasonably move will make a world of difference. In my experience, it is the best environment for moving a divorce along at the couples’ pace, not the pace set by the courts or someone else. To move any faster than the slowest party can reasonably move in a divorce may push the couple into becoming resistant and adversarial, which is not an ideal direction for any divorcing couple.

I always ask my clients, “Whose decision was it to end the marriage?” This often opens up the discussion of timing for each spouse and how best to move forward. The person who makes the decision to end the divorce is often referred to as the “leavor.” The spouse who did not make the decision to end the marriage is referred to as the “leavee.” Psychological studies show the leavor is often 9-18 months further along emotionally than the leavee. I have seen a wide variation in this timing, and I have also noticed that males seem to recover faster as the one who did not decide to end the marriage than females in that situation.

If you were not the one who decided to end the marriage, you may still be dealing with the disappointment of the ending of the marriage and are not ready to be rushed into making decisions about your future. When we feel rushed or pushed into something, our normal human reaction is to resist. When resistance happens in the divorcing process, it increases conflict and adversarial positioning, eventually leading to decisions being settled by the court. When divorcing spouses take their fear and resistance to court, it may become the place to cathartically work through their personal emotional lack of readiness. But it’s a shame that hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent because one spouse is in a hurry to move forward, when all that was really needed was just a little more time. It is also a shame to see one spouse unreasonably delay the process because they did not have the tools to prepare themselves. Spouses who are willing to be patient, pacing the divorce to respect both parties’ needs, will save not only thousands of dollars, but also avoid additional pain and conflict.

This is an excerpt from my new book Divorce made Easier which will be available this spring.  Carol Delzer, Attorney-Mediator, Marriage Family Therapist.