Divorce means many things to many different people. For some, it is the end to a marriage that simply did not work out due to irreconcilable differences. For others, it is an escape from a partner who was not treating them fairly in some way.
For everyone, it is an emotional time of sorrow, stress, and eventual happiness when it is over and done. Some people are excited about their divorce, while others desperately cling to the hope their marriage can somehow be salvaged.
No matter your personal reason for divorce, it is important you understand the meaning and motives behind it. Doing so will make you more informed and better equipped to deal with what you will face during the process.
The legal definition of divorce per Merriam-Webster is “the action or an instance of legally dissolving a marriage.”
There are many reasons why people get divorced. Some of the primary reasons include the following:
- Marrying for the wrong reason. Some marry for money or status, knowing that problems exist already. Some just proceed with the marriage since they feel they’ve already invested so much time and effort into building a life, home, or wedding up that they cannot afford to let themselves and others down.
- Losing sense of self. When you lack an identity of your own, you cannot explain what you like. People in healthy relationships enjoy doing things without their partner occasionally and have their own set of tastes in music, foods, and hobbies that might differ slightly from their partner. Those who cannot do things alone or speak of their own interests and hobbies are likely to feel wanted and special in a relationship, while it actually does the opposite. Without knowing why you are in a relationship, it is doomed to fail.
- Lack of vision. Partners may change upon getting married. If one partner is a saver while the other is a spendthrift, or one partner believes roles should be traditional while the other disagrees, these can be major points of contention. It is important to verify that both parties share goals, hopes, and dreams.
- Money. Certainly not having money can cause animosity, but it is more the lack of shared visions surrounding money that brings couples to the breaking point. When two people are at odds in the financial department, a divorce is likely. For example, an investment-minded person who enjoys saving, investing, taking calculated risks, and building credit will not be compatible with one who spends, charges items unnecessarily, and has no interest in growing their money.
What to Understand
It is important to note that your divorce will be an emotional and trying time for all parties involved. Do not feel ashamed during this time. You are not the first couple to undergo a divorce, and you will not be the last.
After all, divorce is a time in which you feel your dreams and expectations have fallen by the wayside in favor of a divorce that you did not see coming. It will not be a process you will recover from in a matter of hours or weeks.
This process can take years to assimilate into your routine, and it is therefore important you treat yourself right and take care of yourself.
Be sure to engage the help of family and friends. Give a trusted cousin or best friend a call when you need a shoulder to lean on. Enlist the help of a therapist who specializes in divorce to guide you along your path to healing.
You might even journal your thoughts or take up a new exercise regimen to deal with your emotions in a healthy way. Just remember that you are the one dealing with this process; do not let others tell you when to stop grieving, when to cry, or when to smile. Divorce is not uncommon, but it can only be understood by those who have lived it.
Myths About Divorce
As we continue our overview of the meaning of divorce, it is important you understand what a divorce is not. Specifically, the following seeks to show some of the myths surrounding divorce. Movies, television, and books portray divorce in a way that is not like the actual process at all.
- Our divorce will be denied. Not so. If you file for divorce, you are asking the judge to grant you the divorce. However, this does not mean the judge can deny your request. Provided that all financial, visitation, and custody issues have been taken care of in settlement or trial, your divorce will be granted.
- If I commit adultery, I will lose everything. While being unfaithful can lead to divorce, it does not mean you will lose your house, kids, and assets. Combine adultery with wasteful spending of marital assets, and equitable distribution will likely be affected.
- Moms are favored over dads. Movies and television always portray mothers as being the ones to get custody of the children. While a bias toward women did exist years ago, decisions about visitation and custody are based upon the best interest of the child in question, not the gender of the parent.
- Divorce is a battlefield. This may be true for some couples, but some divorces are civil and the result of two people realizing they are no longer compatible. Collaborative divorce, divorce attorneys, and mediation are all methods and professionals that seek to resolve conflicts in a civil manner instead of escalating them to trial.
- If my ex doesn’t pay child support, they won’t get visitation rights. There is absolutely a process in place for parents who are not making good on their child support payments. However, threatening or actually acting on denying visitation to a parent is not it. Access to a child and a spouse’s time for parenting are not related to child support payments.
No Easy Way Out
Divorce is considered by some to be an easy out when things get hard, but this is not true. Divorcing is a process that will be with you for many years to come, with legal implications and emotions to contend with. It is thus important to understand the legal implications of divorce and consider them as you decide how to proceed with your own situation.
First, understand that there are different types of divorces, with different procedures for each.
Collaborative Divorce. Each party hires their own attorney to draw up divorce terms and conditions. This is not offered in all states.
Mediated Divorce. One attorney is shared between spouses to assist in and facilitate the divorce process. Not available in all states.
Summary Divorce. A divorce for people who have been married a short period of time and lack any children, properties of significance, or spousal support. Not applicable in MA or a handful of other states.
Uncontested Divorce. Couples here decide divorce terms without interference or assistance of outside forces. This is a common type of divorce, and couples who file get to choose what suits them best.
One thing to consider is the financial side of the divorce process. You will be asked to legally settle and document your agreed-upon financial terms and conditions. Failure to comply could lead you into a contested divorce and result in an ongoing debate between you and your spouse.
You will spend more money on attorney fees and more of your time in a courtroom. Consider this when you feel the need to contest the agreement for the sake of getting one over on your spouse.
Think of your children as you undergo this process. Your kids already feel mixed up and confused. Do not drag it out longer. You might wish to resolve the matter quickly so your kids can settle into their new routine and feel better faster.
You and your spouse must agree about your kids and their welfare. You must decide upon health insurance, religious preferences, and legal/physical custody. If you cannot agree, the court will review a number of different factors that determine which parent is a better choice for the child. Kids over the age of 12 get to decide for themselves, as the court follows their preference.
Spouses must keep each other supported financially. This does not only mean catering to immediate financial needs. This can sometimes refer to a situation in which long-term assistance is granted, such as pension payments that support the spouse for a longer time period. Couples must address this issue head-on so that the amount and duration of the payments are clearly stated.
By doing this, both parties will have a clear understanding of who gets what and when, so funds can be distributed when needed by either side.
Be sure you have all documents ready to go when you meet with your attorneys and your spouse. This will ensure your process is smoother and show all numbers documented on paper so no discrepancies or drama will arise in the future.
Life After Divorce
As we discuss the meaning of divorce, it is important to know that your divorce does not define you. This is a period of time like any other in your life: it too shall pass. By understanding that there is life after divorce, you can bring meaning back to your own life and understand how to thrive in your new environment.
Understand That You Matter. You are a person with individual talents, desires, needs, and quirks that make you unique and special. You may have separated from somebody who defined you for a long while, but you must understand that you are just as worthy and special as anybody else. Make a list of things you are good at, or why people love you. Go over it until you believe it.
One Special Action A Day. Do one special thing for yourself each and every day, even if it is only ten minutes. You might watch a funny YouTube video from a new channel you’ve been following, or you might go for a walk to the store and try a new snack. Maybe you will hit the gym and try a new class with some friends. By making time for yourself, you can internalize how valuable you really are.
Reinvent Yourself. After divorce, it can be hard to remember who you were beforehand. This is a great time to discover who you were before and rekindle some of those old desires and wants. Perhaps you always wanted to travel, but your partner did not care to leave the town you reside in. Perhaps you wanted to move to another state, but your partner declined. Or maybe you wanted to decorate your kitchen to look like an old-school diner, but your spouse disagreed!
Now is the time to embrace the special quirks and ideas about yourself and let them shine. You can and should show the world who you are. Work on your bucket list, make friends, and get your finances in order. You will be amazed at what you can do.
In sum, it is okay to grieve and feel upset about what is going on in your life. Divorce is something nobody truly wants. If all relationships could be healthy, pleasant, and productive, divorce could be avoided as a whole. Because the universe is not perfect, divorce can and will happen. However, it is how divorcees deal with the process that makes it easy or difficult.
Divorce is nothing more than a legal process through which a marriage is dissolved. It should not be what defines you or your spouse in terms of your individual personalities, goals, or hobbies. Consider the divorce an opportunity to start anew. Learn from your experience and grow from it.
All in all, divorce is not a word with a dirty meaning. It sometimes is a journey that just makes sense and is healthier for all involved. The best thing to do is consult your attorney with any questions and stay strong throughout the process.