In my experience as a Bergen County New Jersey and Monmouth County, New Jersey divorce lawyer and family law attorney, here are five (5) common emotions I have found couples experience when going through a divorce. Very similar to the five stages of grief, I have found that these emotions do not have to happen in order. They can also elevate depending on a person’s circumstance. The emotional phases of divorce include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.


Many times, those who did not initiate the divorce spend a lot of time in the denial phase. Their shock and disbelief causes them to stay “stuck,” refusing to accept their reality. Denial seems to provide comfort for them because it allows them to become distant and suppress their emotions regarding divorce proceedings.


This is an emotion that both parties can exhibit. Depending on the situation, blame, slander, rage, and cynicism can also occur. I have found in my experience as a divorce lawyer that emotions tend to unleash in this phase, especially if they have been suppressed in the denial phase. To make the best decisions during a divorce, it may be best that you work through your anger first with a mental health professional. Then, possibly seek to sit down with your spouse and make rational decisions.


Bargaining during a divorce involves both parties going back and forth about various things. These things include financial obligations and parental custody–just to name a few. Bargaining is very common and some couples struggle to compromise during this process.


In my experience working with my clients, and from talking with other attorneys whom I personally consider to be top Bergen County, New Jersey divorce lawyers, I have found that what appears to be depression can actually occur at any stage and can be the longest standing emotion. Having a support system and seeking professional mental health help is crucial. If children are involved make sure that you and professional mental health help are available to them as they also have to navigate this process.


In my experience as a divorce lawyer, the final emotion couples experience during a divorce. They have accepted their current phase of life and begin to embrace the future. Some even experience peace during this process. It is also common to revisit one (or some) of the aforementioned emotions during the acceptance phase, however, you will not be consumed by those feelings.

A divorce is an emotional and stressful process for some couples. Whether you initiated the divorce or not, you will still experience some of these stages of grief. Allow yourself to feel and be gentle with yourself. Work through each emotional phase in your own time, at your own pace.

Sheena Burke Williams, Esq.


This article contains general information and opinions from Sheena Burke Williams and is not intended to be a source of legal advice for any purpose. No reader of this article should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information included in this article without seeking legal advice of counsel. Sheena Burke Williams expressly disclaims all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on any content in this article.