When the Divorce is Final: Pity Party or Celebrate?

divorce is final

By Jackie Pilossoph, Founder, Divorced Girl Smiling, the place to find trusted, vetted divorce professionals, a podcast, website and mobile app.

You wait and you wait and you wait and it seems like your divorce is never going to be final. Am I right? Months go by, maybe even years, and still, it lingers on. There always seems to be an issue that pops up that delays things, and then his lawyer is on vacation and then your lawyer is on vacation and then one of you changes your mind on something–you decide you want to stay in your house or your ex decides he wants more parenting time, and again, the divorce continues. Finality seems so close, but yet so far. And then, one day, either one of two things happen and you know your divorce is final: either you find out that everything is settled and you get a prove-up hearing date (where you go in front of a judge and agree to the settlement and he/she grants your divorce), or you find out your divorce is final during your trial.

You’ve lived for so long waiting for this nightmare to end, wanting to move on with your life, wanting to stop paying lawyer fees, and now it’s really here.


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Are you happy? Are you relieved? Are you fearful? Are you sad? There are so many feelings that go along with a divorce being final, especially on the day it actually happens.

The day I got divorced (officially), it was my ex’s night with the kids. My dear, dear friend, whose divorce was set to be finalized about 2 weeks later called me and said, “We’re going out.”

We met for a drink and we sat there and it was kind of quiet. I wasn’t having a drink to say “cheers!” and I wasn’t having a drink to drown my sorrows because I was so depressed. It was somewhere in between.

My friend described us having a drink as “Marking the occasion. Just having a drink to mark it. That’s it. Not good or bad, not happy or sad, just because it was a significant day.

I’d say for me, the feeling of my divorce being final was first and foremost, relief. I finally got to take it off my plate, so that I could focus more on and getting my life together, figuring out what that looked like, and of course, being happy.


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When the divorce is final, you get to be done worrying about your judge’s decisions and rulings and petitions and what the outcome is going to be. You don’t have to worry that your ex is going to pull something unexpected.  You don’t have to worry he/she is going to change his/her mind about something already agreed upon.

When the divorce is final, you now know the terms of your divorce.

That is no small thing! It’s a huge relief!

You know how much money you now have. You know what assets you’re left with, you know your kids’ custody schedule is.


It’s all in writing. You know.

And knowing is very comforting. It may not be exactly what you wanted, but at least there’s no more guessing, no more getting your hopes up, no more worrying about what’s going to happen. The decisions have been made. Another biggie when it comes to relief: no more paying the attorney! That’s actually a reason to make a toast and say “cheers!!”

Other feelings are the combination of sadness and happiness the day the divorce is final. It’s the official end of one life, the beginning of a new life.  So, I think the feelings are very mixed. There aren’t too many other instances in life that carry both of those feelings at the same time. In fact, I can’t think of one.

I recently read an article where the author surveyed a bunch of women who were getting divorced, and most of them said that even though their marriages were terrible, they still missed that life a little bit. You can miss anything, whether it’s bad or good, just because you lived with it for so long.

If you feel happy the day your divorce is final…

PLEASE don’t feel guilty if you feel happy. Don’t you deserve some happiness after all the pain you’ve endured, both at the end of the marriage (maybe even for years) and then through the divorce? Feeling happy is okay. It’s healthy, actually. I remember feeling like I had no clue where life was going to take me, and it was a little bit scary, but it was a good feeling, too. The unknown can be exciting if you have the guts to look at it that way.


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As far as the actual divorce, I can’t resist talking about the fact that what I remember very clearly about that day, is that my ex, myself and our attorneys were standing in front of the judge and she was reviewing our agreements. When she was getting ready to wrap things up, she asked me a question. “Do you agree with this settlement? If you do, please answer, ‘I do.’” With my jaw on the ground, I somehow managed to say “I do.”

Sometimes I look back and I wonder if I dreamed that. Seriously? The last thing you say when you get divorced is “I do?”

Other things that happened on my divorce day: In the morning, before I went downtown, the girl my ex was dating at the time actually asked me (with more enthusiasm than Tony Robbins and a smile plastered on her face) if I wanted her to babysit my kids since it was “such a big day!!!!!!” That sort of set me over the edge. There were no tears during my divorce, I think because I was so angry at the girl. And maybe that was God protecting me from being an emotional mess.


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Getting divorced is one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through in my life. So much stress, tears, fear, worries, resentment, bitterness, loss, grief, gut-wrenching pain, loneliness, and anger. These are all feelings people can face for months, perhaps years during a divorce. But having gone through it, first and foremost, I survived. Even better–I feel stronger, smarter and I appreciate things more than I used to, although that might be part of getting older, as well.

When the divorce is final, I think there’s one thing everyone feels: You once stood in front of a priest or a rabbi or a judge with this person, and you promised to love, honor and cherish him or her forever. And now, you’ve broken that promise (whether it was your choice or not).  There’s an immense sadness about that. It’s sad that your future isn’t what you thought it was going to be and the life you imagined isn’t going to become a reality.

That said, screw tradition and what life was supposed to be. It didn’t happen because it wasn’t meant to be. One or both people were unhappy enough to end the marriage. If it wasn’t your choice, then you had no control, and if it was your choice,  you were pretty damn miserable. Is that a good way to live? Nope. Isn’t it wonderful that you now have the opportunity to find a better life for yourself? Freedom is a beautiful thing. And that’s certainly something to celebrate.

Like this article? Check out “49 Inspiring Things Every Divorced Woman Needs to Hear”

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    Jackie Pilossoph

    Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

    Jackie Pilossoph is the Founder of Divorced Girl Smiling, the media company that connects people facing with divorce to trusted, vetted divorce professionals. Pilossoph is a former NBC affiliate television journalist and Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press features reporter. Her syndicated column, Love Essentially was published in the Chicago Tribune/Pioneer Press and Tribune owned publications for 7 1/2 years. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University. Learn more at: DivorcedGirlSmiling.com

    14 Responses to “When the Divorce is Final: Pity Party or Celebrate?”

    1. Cathy

      My divorce was final 48hrs ago. I thought I’d be happy that day and relieved. I sobbed leaving the court room and didn’t stop until the next day. I didn’t see anything worth celebrating. We had children and I know they aren’t celebrating. However today, I bought myself a pandora ring and it makes me feel strong when I look at it and realize I went through hell and I’m still here.

      • Jackie Pilossoph

        I completely understand your reaction. YOu will be OK now. It’s good that you let yourself grieve. Great job on the pandora ring, by the way!! xoxo

    2. Michele

      I’m sitting here on the eve of my divorce feeling a mixture of pain, sadness,disbelief that it is realy over, but also a sense of relief. I feel sad for my kids, for myself and even my soon to be ex husband. I hope I’m making the right decision.

      • Jackie Pilossoph

        My dad always said that once you make a decision, stick to it and don’t doubt yourself. Best wishes. YOu are going to be fine!

    3. John

      Strong feelings here that I went forward with heart-first but faced with a healthy dose of reality and relief as well after an 806 day Immigration odyssey/ fail resulting in Divorce.

    4. anna

      hiya my divorce was finalised two weeks ago. I was in a physical and emotionally abusive marriage. I left when i found out he had been cheating on me for a year. Some how this gave me the push i needed. I went out and celebrated but 1 week later i hit rock bottom. I found myself in a very vulnerable place. I kept saying to myself how amazing my life is now and why i left. I never expected to feel like this but im taking one day as it comes.

    5. Melissa

      My divorce was finalized a few hours ago. I feel kind of numb. Thought I might be sad…then thought I might feel happy. But neither emotion kicked in. I guess it has been such a long road apart now that it doesn’t change much for me at this point. I do feel a little scared though (even though I have been fully taking care of myself and my kids for years).

      • Jackie Pilossoph

        Don’t you also feel kind of a sense of relief? Like this limbo you’ve been in for so long is over. No more attorney’s bills, no more not knowing the future. It’s not hanging over your head unfinished. That’s got to be a good feeling, right?

    6. Elie

      I was unhappy for years and it has taken almost 3 years to be finalized which happened about 2 hours ago. I’m feeling such sadness. I feel the loss of belonging to a family for both myself and my children that can’t be recreated. I have created a new life for us but that is gone. I don’t want to be with him but I miss that and I feel responsible for making a poor choice and then taking it all away from my kids.

      • Jackie Pilossoph

        the most unhealthy emotion we can feel is guilt. We all make poor choices and the only way to be happy is to move on and focus on making better choices in the future. I am so sorry you are sad. It’s normal and things will get better. But stop looking back and start moving ahead. Things are going to turn out surprisingly well!!

    7. Linda Moore Kurth

      Jackie, I just discovered your blog and am enjoying it. I write about divorce and recovery from a Christian perspective, although not always focusing on faith. My memoir God, the Devil, and Divorce: A Transformative Journey out of Emotional and Spiritual Abuse is scheduled for publication this fall. Would you be interested in exchanging blog posts at some point? Perhaps an interview?

      • Jackie Pilossoph

        Linda, that’s awesome! Reach out when the book comes out and I’ll try to help you spread the word. xo

    8. A

      I looked online at the court record and learned my divorce was finalized 2 weeks ago. It was at my request that we split; 25 years, no kids. We remain on good terms and share our pup. It’s been emotional and I’ve questioned myself along the way. I remind myself of the key reasons I wanted to spilt: we never spoke about anything that really mattered, we were living a dull life and I really felt he had fallen out of love with me. Although, to this day, I do not know as….he just doesn’t talk. So here I am, sad but realizing it’s good it’s final (almost a 3 year process). I think I am ‘happy’ but cannot fully embrace it because although I now have a good paying job, I live paycheck to paycheck. I have zero sense of security. I have great friends, love my community and have been dating a nice fellow for about a year. I need to be able to separate the financial fear from everything else. I will ‘mark the occasion’ with a walk to the beach to breath deeply and feel the air


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