Should you and your spouse separate?  ..get divorced?  How do you know if it's the right thing do?  Do you know the basics regarding a divorce?    Are you prepared for the legal and emotional aspects of divorce and life changes afterward?  DMK Divorce Essentials can help!

We put together a helpful resource to not only help you determine if divorce is right for you and your marriage, but to help you prepare, process and recover both legally and emotionally.

Two parts of the DMK Divorce Essentials


Your legal divorce requires input by both spouses, often with the help of legal professionals or the court system.  In order to gain a legal dissolution, both spouses remain married until a Final Judgement of Divorce is established following an accepted settlement agreement or when a judge determines the terms of the divorce. 


The emotional process is one that each spouse must manage independently or with the help of counselors or therapists.   Since nothing is materially established upon reaching an end to the emotional journey, often it’s unrecognized as a priority despite it's importance in each spouse's personal journey through divorce.

This is why we have incorporated both a representation of your legal resolve and the emotional resolve into the DMK Divorce Essentials list. The list is broken into 4 divorce categories. Emotional Divorce | Separation | Legal Divorce | Post-Divorce.

DMK Divorce Essentials Directions:

The actions or acknowledgement (column 3, Necessity) for each of the essentials (column 1, Essentials) for the four categories listed above (Emotional Divorce Essentials | Separation Essentials | Legal Divorce Essentials | Post-Divorce Essentials) should be completed or regarded according to the explanation of the essential (column 2, Essential Description) in consideration of the probability (column 4, Likelihood of Necessity) that most marriages will experience that specific divorce essential.  

e.g. If the necessity is acknowledgment for the essential, loveless and the likelihood of the necessity is possible, then it means that the marriage may emotionally end based on one or both spouses acknowledging they no longer love each other.   However, it’s not an essential that requires a specific action for the lovelessness to cause a divorce; so action was not a Necessity for this essential.  It is a possible cause for divorce, as indicated in the Likelihood of Necessity.  Also, it may be in addition to other essentials that lead to divorce.  Some are more probable and one is an absolute essential before moving forward with divorce.

DISCLAIMER: This article is based on information from individuals who have been through marital problems and divorce.  It is not meant to represent emotional therapy or legal advice.  It is part of the exclusive DMK Divorce Workshop and designed to help couples organize the multi-facets of divorce as it applies to their emotional and legal journey.

Emotional Divorce

This period of time represents when you and/or your spouse no longer provide for the marriage.

Divorce may be eminent if no intervention takes place following any essentials of an emotional divorce.  *NOTE* Your marriage may not have every essential on this list.  It is meant to define typical problems in a failing marriage that may be recognized in negative actions or behaviors, but formerly had no actionable efforts or acknowledgment to resolve.

Reasons for divorce

Emotional Divorce Essentials list includes personal reasons why you and/or your spouse may consider divorce, but not necessarily legal grounds. It provides talking points and issues important to your marriage and relationship. Once you review each category, you both should have a better idea of the issues that plague your marriage and overall considerations that suggest divorce or reconciliation is best for you and your spouse.

While some legal grounds for divorce are included on this list, other grounds for divorce may be available in your state that are not included, while some on the list may not be available in your state. Refer to your state laws and legal advisors for specifics. This list is meant to represent some reasons why to seek divorce but is not exclusive to these reasons.

DISCLAIMER: While this chart may include some legal precedent (fault grounds) and general information regarding divorce, the Emotional Divorce Essentials are exclusive to DMK for the interest of our readers and in no way meant to represent a formal example of precipitators of divorce and/or professional advice.  It is neither prepared or endorsed by legal or mental health professionals.
Emotional Divorce Essentials Essential Description Necessity Likelihood of Necessity


One or both spouses no longer love the other.

Acknowledgement Possible

Fault Grounds

Common fault grounds for divorce such as adultery, cruelty, unreasonable behavior, imprisonment, abandonment, mental illness, criminal conviction, abuse1. Some states also include drug abuse, impotency and religious reasons. There are at least 11 fault grounds in the U.S. so consult an attorney for grounds available in your state.

Acknowledgement and/or Action Possible

Hurtful Marriage

The relationship is damaging to the individual(s) or other household family members. It has negative effects on self-esteem, lifestyle, motivation, etc.

Acknowledgement and Action Possible

Painful Memories

Personal occurrences that cannot be resolved.

Acknowledgement and Action Possible

Depressed Marriage

The relationship does not promote personal happiness to one or both spouses and may be oppositional to personal happiness.

Acknowledgement Probable

Hopeless Relationship

Indifference to each other or the relationship has occurred and is unchanging.

Acknowledgement Probable

Irreconcilable Differences or No-Fault Grounds

No misconduct, but irretrievable breakdown of marriage. The couple has grown apart and developed perspectives too different to maintain compatibility. Some states only offer no-fault divorce. All states offer some type of no-fault divorce.

Acknowledgement/ Action Possible

DMK Marriage Essentials test failed

Couple has failed the DMK Marriage Essentials test, despite options available to repair the marriage, one or both spouses choice to pursue divorce.

Acknowledgement/ Action Absolute

1If you or someone you know is in an abusive or unsafe environment, you or this person should seek local help immediately or contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233


Separation is the period of time that represents when you and your spouse decide to separate. This is done to work on the relationship, determine if the relationship can be saved or as a beginning to divorce.

DISCLAIMER: While this chart may include some legal and emotional information regarding divorce, the Separation Essentials are exclusive to DMK for the interest of our readers and in no way meant to represent professional advice.  It is neither prepared or endorsed by legal or mental health professionals.
Separation Essentials Separation Description Necessity Importance of Necessity
Emotional Divorce Essentials Reviewed Couple has reviewed the Emotional Divorce Essentials if separation is for the purpose of divorce. Acknowledgement Ultimate Essential
Emotional Management Both spouses have considered independent and/or marriage counseling based on goals of the separation. Coping strategies and stress management techniques have been employed. Children have been given an opportunity to talk to both parents about their feelings regarding separation and counseling has been considered, if needed. Acknowledgement/ Action Ultimate Essential
Separation Goals Established reasons for separation, making sure both spouses understand the goal of the separation. (Possible reasons: determine if relationship can be saved, relationship repair, beginning stage of divorce). Acknowledgement Ultimate Essential
Legal Consultation An attorney has been consulted so that the couple understands the laws in the resident state, types of divorce available, requirements for a legal separation or divorce. Acknowledgement and Action Ultimate Essential
Separation Longevity Requirements Couple has decided if they wish to seek a separation or a legal separation (required for a period of time prior to a divorce in some states - average 6-12 months, as long as 36 months). Acknowledgement Ultimate Essential
Separation Requirements One spouse has decided to move to a separate residence or part of the home. Refer to state requirements for a legal separation if separating for the purpose of state required separation prior to divorce. (This may include no physical relations between spouses and no cohabitation) Action Ultimate Essential
Financial Records/File Financial records have been copied so that both spouses have possession of necessary documents. Start a separation file folder with documents. Action Ultimate Essential
Personal Property Records and Division Negotiations Both spouses have agreed upon personal property division, whether it is too contentious or against the advice of their attorney(s). Anything one spouse removed from the home has been recorded. Acknowledgement and Action

Probable/ Ultimate Essential

Separation Agreement Negotiations Unless they are too contentious or against the advice of the attorney(s), spouses have started to work together to determine a fair separation agreement to include custody arrangement, if applicable. Action Probable
Divorce Settlement Negotiations If a divorce is being planned, unless too contentious or against the advice of the attorney(s), both spouses have begun to work together to determine as much as possible regarding the divorce settlement. Action Probable
Separation Occurs One spouse plans to or has begun to remove his/her personal property, documents and/or records as agreed upon by both spouses, regardless of the goals of the separation, in the event of failed reconciliation and eminent divorce. Action Ultimate Essential


Legal Divorce

Legal Divorce is the process and eventual legal dissolution of a marriage. It is concluded with a Final Judgement of Divorce, usually established with a settlement agreement that is accepted by both spouses.

DISCLAIMER: While this chart may include some legal and emotional information regarding divorce, the Divorce Essentials are exclusive to DMK for the interest of our readers and in no way meant to represent professional advice.  It is neither prepared or endorsed by legal or mental health professionals.
Legal Divorce Essentials Legal Divorce Description Necessity Likelihood of Necessity
Emotional Management Both spouses have considered independent counseling, coping strategies and are aware of the Stages of Divorce to establish less emotional negativity when negotiating the legal process of the divorce. Action Ultimate Essential
Divorce Started Based on circumstances that have been considered along with anticipated outcome of divorce, one or both spouses have elected to pursue divorce. Acknowledgement/ Action Ultimate Essential
Understand Legal Options Effect on Length and Cost of Divorce Both spouses understand how the choices regarding attorneys, negotiation strategies, state laws and types of divorce will affect the cost and anticipated time frame of the divorce. Acknowledgement Ultimate Essential
Understand Asset Distribution Spouses know the basics regarding marital assets and assets owned prior to marriage. They understand how these assets will be distributed if negotiations are unsuccessful. Refer to a local attorney for details. Acknowledgement Ultimate Essential

Important Documents Assembled for Both Spouses, Distributed to Your Attorney (A)

Click an easy to read list here of both (A) and (B)

Assembled pertinent documents: Prenuptial agreement(s), tax returns for 3-5 years, recent pay stubs for both spouses, 2 years of bank statements and canceled checks, copies of bank registers for 2 years is self-employed), all insurance policies, investment accounts, savings passbooks or certificates, retirement accounts, pensions, real property appraisals, personal property appraisals, title & registration of all vehicles, licenses or certificates of value, social security estimates or income verification, employment or contractor contracts or benefits, spousal-owned-business financial records/invoices/2 years P&L Statements and any other documents as required by your legal team, courts, etc. Action Ultimate Essential

Important Documents Assembled for Both Spouses, Distributed to Your Attorney for Both Spouses (B)

Click an easy to read list here of both (A) and (B)

List of all personal property in possession by either spouse (note possession details and if purchased prior to marriage) also assembled information and documents regarding: wills, trusts, POAs, medical directives, stock options, a list of all debts, proof of payments made while married of debts assumed prior to marriage, mortgage documents/statements (first, second and lines of credit), documents detailing legal description of all real property owned, original sale documents for real property owned (primary, secondary, investment), refinance documents (if any), secured loans (e.g. auto loans), property tax documents (tax assessor statements and paid personal property tax documents), tax debts or liens, credit card and loan statements, credit reports (upon request), list of last 18 months of bills (household expenses, kids expenses, tuition, medical bills). Include any needed documents as required by your legal team, courts, etc. Action Ultimate Essential
Divorce File Created for Both Spouses with Copies of all Documents Needed Create a divorce file folder with all financial, legal and pertinent documents or convert separation file folder to a divorce file folder (if applicable). All contact information for attorneys, courts, mediators & spouse should be listed on the file folder. Action Ultimate Essential
Understand State Laws for Improved Negotiations Spouses understand the laws of their state and the laws effect on their personal circumstances. They have selected the type of divorce best for them. They know if they reside in an Equitable Distribution State or Community Property State. A legal representative has advised them regarding the difference between fair and equal portions of marital assets, when applicable.

Acknowledgement/ Action

Ultimate Essential
Choose an Attorney Spouses have conferred regarding legal representation options and one option has been accepted by one or both spouses. D-I-Y, hire mutual attorney, hire individual attorneys, hire an attorney to do paperwork or other. An attorney or legal representative has been hired, if applicable. Action Ultimate Essential
Debt Responsibility Following Divorce Despite Settlement Agreement Spouses understand debt obligations following divorce, before a settlement has been established. Refer to a local attorney, loan facilitator or financial advisor for counsel. Acknowledgement/ Action Ultimate Essential
Understand Tax Liability and Divorce Each spouse understands his/her personal tax liability as it is affected or incurred based on settlement decisions, sale/division of assets and how fair distribution may result in one spouses higher tax liability. Refer to a local attorney, financial advisor and/or accountant. Acknowledgement/ Action Ultimate Essential
Amendable Judgement Options Understood Each spouse understands that upon an accepted Final Judgement of Divorce, the terms are unamendable unless both spouses agree to the amendment or extenuating legal circumstances exist that a licensed attorney advises to legally pursue. Acknowledgement Ultimate Essential
Separation Agreement Established Spouses have negotiated a separation agreement that has established terms of the separation until the divorce is final. Action Ultimate Essential when applicable
Reevaluate Health, Stress and Personal Well Being. Either spouse has considered changes since the beginning of the divorce that may have caused unanticipated grief, depression or other health problems that may require medical intervention or behavioral health therapy so that he/she continues to positively progress during and after the divorce. Acknowledgment/ Action Ultimate Essential
Divorce Requirements Satisfied Spouses have met all legal requirements to proceed with divorce. Action Ultimate Essential
Legal Separation Established Legal Separation has already been established and is verifiable based on current requirements and laws. Action Ultimate Essential
States Requirements Regarding Children and Divorce Satisfied Spouses have completed any necessary "Children of Divorced Parents" program required per state laws. Action Ultimate Essential
Temporary Child Custody and Support Established (if not already established in a previous Separation Agreement) Spouses have agreed to terms of temporary child custody or a hearing has been set to establish terms of the temporary custody arrangement until the divorce is complete. Action Ultimate Essential
Meet with professionals Spouses have conferred with financial, accounting and real estate professionals to understand all implications pertaining to assets, tax liability, filing and real property values/marketability to make decisions regarding the settlement. Action Ultimate Essential
Terms Established Spouses have agreed to the settlement terms or have established legal representation to negotiate on each spouses behalf. Acknowledgment/ Action Ultimate Essential
Understand Increased Costs for Legal Fees Spouses understand that failure to achieve a settlement may result in costly legal fees if the case goes to court. Acknowledgement Ultimate Essential
Emotional Decision Making Negated Problems associated with the current separation agreement are brought to the attorney's attention only when necessary with limited emotional decision making. This will reduce time, money and embarrassment. Acknowledgement Ultimate Essential


Post-Divorce is the period of time following the Final Judgement of Divorce. It is most representational of the time it takes to complete the stages of divorce.

DISCLAIMER: While this chart may include some legal and emotional information regarding divorce and recovery, the Post-Divorce Essentials are exclusive to DMK for the interest of our readers and in no way meant to represent professional advice.  It is neither prepared or endorsed by legal or mental health professionals.
Post Divorce Essentials Post-Divorce Necessity Likelihood of Necessity
Legal Divorce Completed The Final Judgement of Divorce has been accepted and signed by both spouses approved by the local courts. Acknowledgement/ Action Ultimate Essential
Separate Residences Established Each person has established separate residences or started the immediate transition to do so. Action Ultimate Essential
Emotional Management Considerable attention has been taken to process the Stages of Divorce in an effort to understand feelings and emotions associated with the past relationship and marriage. Acknowledgement/ Action Ultimate Essential
Active Lifestyle Started Actions and activities that provide an outlet for stress and negative energy have been started. Action Ultimate Essential
Therapeutic Emotional Management Counseling, therapy and/or group therapy have begun if the individual or family members are struggling as a result of divorce. Action Ultimate Essential
Family Members Emotional Management Particular attention to children's feelings and those affected by the divorce has been given. Good communication and quality time has been established to provide children an opportunity to ask for help or convey their feelings regarding the problems associated with changes as a result of the divorce. Acknowledgement/ Action Ultimate Essential
Effective Communication with Family Established Parents have established good communication channels and avoid asking children to convey their messages to the other co-parent. Acknowledgement/ Action Ultimate Essential
Positive Behavior Demonstrated Parents refrain from negative comments or asking children about their former spouse, his/her relationships, money, personal happenings or otherwise. Acknowledgement/ Action Ultimate Essential
Divorce Agreement Accepted Despite Imperfections Acceptance of the legal divorce agreement has been acknowledged regardless if it provides exactly what either spouse wanted. Acknowledgement Probable
Amendable Settlement/Judgement Options Understood Each person understands that the settlement/judgement will have areas that either spouse may feel is completely unfair or unequal, but is unamendable unless both spouses agree to an amendment and/or extenuating legal circumstances exist that a licensed attorney advises to legally pursue. Acknowledgement Probable
Single Lifestyle Changes Made Changes have been implemented to maintain a lifestyle that will provide more happiness as a new single person than as an unhappy married person. Changes should provide financial independence, potential new relationships, hobbies, personal well being, etc. Acknowledgement/ Action Probable
Plan to Reconcile Implemented (if applicable) Individuals who consider reconciling during this phase should consider options such as workshops, counseling or therapy that may provide strategies to overcome previous obstacles in the relationship. Communication and expectations should be clear between both individuals. Acknowledgement/ Action Ultimate Essential, as needed
Emotionally Prepare for New Relationships Dating and physical relationships are typical during this phase. Before doing so, either spouse should be free of the major emotional entanglements from the divorce that may affect their new relationship. Understanding the Stages of Divorce and participating in group therapy and counseling can all be helpful in letting go in order to move forward. Acknowledgement/ Action Ultimate Essential


Not sure if you are ready for all of this?

Take the Marriage Essentials Test

Find out if your marriage can pass the test despite current challenges or if you are on your way to divorce. It can help you determine if:

  • your marriage has a bad attitude
  • one spouse feels drastically different than the other
  • you both agree on specific marriage traits
  • you need specific attention to problem areas in the marriage
  • one or both spouses are unhappy with specific issues
  • the marriage needs a professional therapist
  • your marriage is healthy and happy or on it's way to divorce

Find the test in the next article in our DMK Marriage Workshop, "DMK Marriage Essentials Test"


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