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What Makes a Divorce Final?

When the judge signs the papers saying you are no longer married, right? Not so fast.

Probably most people going through a divorce have said at least once, “I just want it to be over.” But
definitions of what constitutes “over” aren’t necessarily that clear. While marriage counseling is focused
on saving marriages working to create new and improved skills and relationships, sometimes the best
outcome of counseling is divorce. In the world of marriage counseling, we recognize that every divorce
has three sub-types of divorce, and until you have all three, the divorce isn’t “final.”

A geographical divorce is one of the hurdles to cross. This means you and your former partner have completely separated your households and live as individuals, no longer a couple. Each person only has a key to his/her own house, there is no joint bank account, mail is not picked up anywhere but your own mailbox, and all your clothes are hanging in your own closet.

An emotional divorce is another of the three hurdles on the way to “final.” This means there is no hope or effort at reconciliation. Fantasies of happy endings are in the past. There are no more romantic rendezvous. If you worked hard and are lucky, you can walk away as friends, but at best that is all you are now.

The third hurdle is the legal divorce. This is when the judge signs the papers officially ending the marital contract. The assets and liabilities have been split, what one person does with their finances no longer obligates the other, custody of children is set. You are now legally single, again.

These three different sub-types of divorce do not need to be completed in any certain order, but for the divorce to be truly “final” all three need to be behind you. Going through the process is rarely easy or without challenges along the way. If you are struggling, perhaps find yourself stuck, seeking the assistance and support of a qualified Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist can be invaluable.

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