The Six Stages of Divorce

What Are the Six Stages of Divorce?

Even though roughly 800,000 people get divorced each year, it’s always hard to deal with your marriage ending. Whether you initiated the divorce or not, it takes time to adjust to the huge life change. Most people will find that they can only begin to fully move on after going through the six stages of divorce.


For most people, the first thing they will feel is shock. After sticking with a relationship for a while, it can feel very surprising to realize that it’s actually happening. Even if you weren’t blindsided with a request for divorce, actually going forward with the decision to leave can feel surprisingly abrupt.

Some people report feeling happy, relieved, or relaxed while others might feel sad, angry, or heartbroken. Whatever your emotions, it takes time for reality to start actually sinking in. Most people remain in this stage for at least a week or two.

Being Overwhelmed

Once your brain kicks into gear and realizes that you are finally getting a divorce, it goes into overdrive. There are a million and one things you have to think about, including:

  • Where will you live?
  • How do you find a divorce attorney?
  • When do you tell your family?
  • Who gets the kids?
  • How do you furnish your new home?
  • When should you start dating again?

With so many possibilities to consider and so many tasks to accomplish, it’s no surprise that the second stage of the divorce process feels like a blur. When you’re not busy sorting out the practicalities of getting divorced, you are most likely going over moments in your relationship and obsessively considering how things ended.

You may end up feeling like you never get a moment to truly relax or process everything. This blur of emotion and exhaustion often lasts for around three to four weeks, and at the end of the time period you will wonder, “Where did the time go?”


By now, you are about three months in and starting to get used to life without your partner. For most people, this is the time when they start to feel positive and optimistic again. You have probably started legal actions to divorce by now, and you are getting a hang of living separately and managing custody issues. Instead of being overwhelmed by constant responsibilities, you have time to actually assess your life and think about where you’re headed.

Though there will still probably be quite a few disagreements and problems, most people will feel excited and intrigued by life. After the first storm of emotions wears off, you probably start to feel at peace and become pleased with all the possibilities ahead of you. This stage won’t necessarily be filled with nonstop optimism, but you’ll find yourself looking forward to things like:

  • Spending time with friends
  • Creating a new home that suits your personal preferences
  • Dating or starting another romantic relationship
  • Rebuilding your relationship with your children
  • Making more time for your family

New Complications

About six months to one year after a divorce, you begin to experience higher highs and lower lows. There can be a lot of great things about this stage of divorce. You’re finally back on your feet, and most people find that they’re no longer feeling constantly heartbroken. However, this is also the stage when the realities of divorce become more apparent. People who formerly thought they were coping well might find themselves dealing with grief and depression.

Usually, this is the time when you start to actually file legal documents and finalize your divorce. Even with a good divorce attorney on your side, it can be very stressful to handle all these issues. You have to have more contact with your estranged spouse again, and the divorce can bring up old feelings or alert you to issues you were not aware of. Some other potential complications that often arise during this period include:

  • Friends and family who supported you no longer have time to be with you constantly
  • Kids may start to struggle with moving or dealing with new schools
  • You begin to realize there’s no chance of reconciling
  • During the divorce process, you find out your spouse was unfaithful
  • You have to meet the ex’s new partner at holidays or family birthdays
  • As things come out in the divorce, friends may choose sides


Around a year after the divorce, the acclimation period begins. You are over the rush of feeling like you’re finally free, and you’re also over the frustration caused by having disagreements with your ex. Unless your ex is being particularly difficult, you have probably finalized your divorce case and found agreements on things like property division and child custody.

As your mood and your life stabilize, you will find that you and your family get used to your new routine and start getting over a divorce. Kids will usually be used to moving between two homes, and you will be used to being single or potentially going on dates again. This period also gives you more perspective on how divorce affects you, so you may consider things like therapy or counseling to finish your journey to healing.


Two years after your divorce, the end of your marriage will be in the rearview mirror. Though you might occasionally feel frustration or sadness when you have to deal with your ex or contemplate an old anniversary, your main focus will be on the life you are currently living. Many people are in a new relationship or even remarried by this point, and most will find meaning in their families, careers, or hobbies.

Though people may feel nostalgia for their old marriage, the majority will also feel that the divorce was a good decision and that they are better off where they are now. People in this stage often mention that the divorce ended up being a powerful motivation for change. Though you may still see your ex if you share custody, your past relationship will no longer feel like a major part of your identity.

The Law Office of Kelly Berton Rocco is here to help you through every stage of a New Jersey divorce. We provide useful input when you’re still too stressed to handle the details, and we help finalize details like custody and house sales in the future. Our team provides compassionate, aggressive representation to clients throughout the Hackensack region. To learn more about our services, call 201-343-0078 or fill out our contact form.

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