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.
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.
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.
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.
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.