Collaborative Family Law And Mediation Services

The five stages of divorce

On Behalf of | Oct 3, 2023 | Collaborative Divorce, Divorce Mediation |

Many people are familiar with the five stages of grief, but did you know there are also five stages of divorce? This should not come as too much of a surprise, since a divorce is a highly emotional and mentally stressful time involving many of the same feelings you have after you have lost a loved one.

The five stages of divorce are essentially the same as the grief stages, only in the context of a divorce.

Denial and anger

The first stage is denial. This means not accepting that the divorce is happening, likely because acknowledging the divorce will be too overwhelming.

The denial stage can last quite a long time for various reasons. Your spouse might also not be sure if divorce is what they want, even if one has already been filed, so the two of you may go through many periods of uncertainty or back and forth. This could make it easier to stay in denial.

Once you can no longer deny that the divorce is happening, you become angry, which is the second stage of divorce. An event could trigger moving you out of the denial stage to the anger stage, such as being served with a proposed agreement to finalize your divorce.

It is important to recognize when you are in the anger phase because your words or actions could be very destructive. Blaming your spouse for everything that went wrong or taking your emotions out on others are going to make your situation worse.

Consider seeing a mental health counselor or therapist as soon as you can after learning about your divorce. You might not do this while still in the denial stage, since you do not believe it is happening, but taking care of your mental health while in the anger stage is vital.

Bargaining and depression

The third stage is bargaining. At this point, you will likely start analyzing every aspect of your marriage, wondering if you could have done something differently. You might start contacting your spouse, asking if you can work things out and promising to change any bad behavior that you believed caused the divorce.

Depression is the fourth stage and usually the longest. This is when you finally realize that the divorce is happening, and your spouse is not going to reconcile with you. You are facing reality in this stage, and it is usually extremely difficult.


The final stage is acceptance. Ideally, your depression will eventually fade, and you will come to terms with your divorce. This stage does not mean that everything is fine, but that you have hope for the future and are starting to feel like yourself again.

Divorce is never easy and the divorce process in California can be complex and confusing. Knowing about the five stages of divorce can help you manage your emotions and develop healthy habits to get you through this difficult time.