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Understanding The Stages of Divorce

5 stages of divorce explained

Did you know that in the United States, a third of adults believe that divorce should never be permitted, whereas only 15% of adults believe that a no-fault divorce is acceptable? At Johnson O’Keefe, we understand that no one seeks out divorce, but it might be necessary for everyone involved’s overall health, happiness, and safety. We also understand divorce ends marriages but not families. If you are thinking about going your separate way, please know our divorce attorneys are prepared to guide you through the five stages of divorce. Our Johnson O’Keefe legal team is experienced and fully equipped to handle not just the legal proceedings of divorce but also the different emotional challenges that separation can bring. Below we will go over the different stages and how our team can help you with representation.

Emotional Stages of Divorce

Couples with even the best intentions might find their marriage is headed for a divorce. When a couple decides to go through the divorce process, they will likely go through these five stages:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

The stages aren’t easy, but successfully navigating these emotions can help a couple reach a resolution.

One or both partners might go through each stage of divorce. Once the reality of the divorce sets in, couples may start blaming each other for marital problems.

During the bargaining stage, couples will have to face the possibility of living without each other. Depression happens when couples come to terms with their marriage ending.

Couples might still feel sad during the acceptance stage but have made peace with the decision to divorce.

Each stage is emotional and complex, which is why you shouldn’t navigate the divorce process alone. An experienced Johnson O’Keefe divorce attorney can help you understand your rights and options, putting you at ease regarding your future.

How the Divorce Process Works

It is also important to note that there are emotional stages of divorce and then there are legal stages of the divorce process once you and your partner decide to file.

Divorce proceedings can differ based on relationships, but most follow a general format. Let’s dive into the steps of the divorce process so you can better understand how a lawyer can help.

File the Divorce Petition

The process begins with a divorce petition. Whether or not both partners agree to the divorce, one spouse will file a legal petition asking the divorce court to end the marriage. This party is the petitioner.

The petition has to include this information:

  • A statement stating that one spouse meets Illinois residency requirements for divorce
  • A legal reason for divorce
  • Any other statutory information required by the state of Illinois

The legal reason for divorce will dictate whether you file an at-fault or no-fault divorce.

Request Temporary Court Orders

Waiting for finalized divorce papers is not practical in every situation. For example, if you are a stay-at-home parent who is raising the kids and is financially dependent on your spouse, you can ask the court for temporary orders.

You can request temporary court orders for:

  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • Spousal support

The court will hold a hearing, gather information, and decide on the request. Judges try to act quickly to grant temporary orders.

File Proof of Service

When you file for divorce and request temporary orders, you have to file proof of service with the court. This document states that you meet the statutory requirements for giving your spouse a copy of the divorce petition. If you don’t properly serve your spouse’s divorce papers, the judge cannot proceed with the divorce. Consider hiring an experienced professional who can deliver documents to tricky parties if your spouse doesn’t want the divorce and tries to make the process more difficult.

Negotiate a Settlement

If you and your spouse don’t agree on property division, custody, support, and other matters, you will have to negotiate a settlement. The court might schedule a settlement conference where you, your spouse, and your attorney will meet to discuss the divorce. It’s always best to have a lawyer present to help before a divorce is finalized to ensure one spouse doesn’t take advantage of the other.

Go to Trial

If the negotiations fail, the court will step in and schedule a divorce court appearance. The trial is held before a judge and sometimes a jury. Both sides present evidence, call witnesses to support their claims, and should have a lawyer present. A professional attorney will help with a divorce hearing by gathering evidence regarding divorce-related matters. The court considers the evidence and renders a binding, final decision.

Finalize the Judgment

The final step in the divorce process, whether the divorce goes to trial or not, is when the judge signs the judgment of divorce that officially terminates the marriage. This is also called an order of dissolution or divorce decree.

The order ends the marriage and specifies details regarding:

  • Parenting time
  • Custodial responsibility
  • Child support
  • Spousal support
  • Division of assets and debts

If you and your spouse were able to come to a settlement agreement, the filing spouse’s attorney will likely draft the judgment for a judge to sign. A judge will issue the final order if the divorce ends up in trial.

Post-Decree Divorce Orders of Modification

If one spouse wants to appeal the divorce due to errors during the trial, the process can get expensive. Instead, they should ask for a divorce decree modification. This can involve:

  • Post-Decree Dissolution of Marriage
  • Post-Decree Allocation of Parental Rights

If you were unsuccessful or did not think to ask for Pre-Decree Divorce Orders of Modification that include Pre-Decree Dissolution of Marriage and Pre-Decree Allocation of Parental Rights, this is the right step to take. You will file this motion with the court that issued your divorce decree. Modifying child custody, alimony, and property division is possible but it won’t be an easy process. Presenting an appeal in a divorce is a highly technical process that requires the help of an attorney.

Get Legal Help With a Divorce Hearing

You might not need legal help with a divorce hearing if you and your spouse can come to a settlement, but a lawyer should still be present during the settlement negotiations. It’s not uncommon for one or both parties to disagree, especially if they are still going through the emotional stages of divorce. Whether or not you go to trial when getting a divorce, it’s important to hire a highly experienced Johnson O’Keefe Family Law attorney. We can help with every step of your divorce case from filing for divorce to post-decree modification. Book an initial Zoom call with us today to get started.


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