The Six Stations of Divorce

As couples divorce, they may experience different phases during the process.  In 1970, anthropologist Paul Bohannan proposed a model consisting of six stations, or types, of divorce: EMOTIONAL, ECONOMIC, CO-PARENTAL, COMMUNITY, LEGAL and PSYCHIC.  The mediation method is a gentle tool to help guide couples through these stages of the divorce process.


The emotional divorce usually begins before legal proceedings.  A spouse may lose affection for the other and become indifferent.  You may notice behavior that is intended to hurt the other, such as sarcasm, blame, and bickering. The emotional divorce has three phases:

1. Beginning Phase: There may still be hope that the marriage will improve, although spouses may begin to feel disappointment with each other.

2. Middle Phase: The spouse who is unhappy may weigh the options and consider leaving. Disappointment can turn into anger because marital issues are unresolved.

3. End Phase: The couple may try counseling and have become cold and indifferent to each other. The couple may begin a trial separation which often leads to legal proceedings.


The economic divorce involves the settlement of property and debts and can cause a high level of conflict.  This may include a decline in living standards and disputes over personal property. In most cases, living standards decrease because it is difficult to maintain the same living standards after the property has been divided in two. Disputes may occur because the loss of personal property can be emotional for couples. This phase may take a long time to resolve.


For couples that have children (two-thirds), the co-parental divorce involves decisions about child custody, child support, legal rights, and financial responsibilities of each parent.  Children may become deeply involved in the parent’s conflicts. The adversarial and expensive legal system tends to add more challenges during this phase.


The community divorce occurs when each partner leaves relationships in their community of friends and family. During the marriage, a couple acquires a network of mutual relationships. Married friends may take sides and no longer be comfortable with each other. The married couples may feel threatened or the relationships may simply change or fade away.


The legal divorce begins when the couples enter the legal process. The legal system is adversarial and aggressive. Lawyers are trained to fight, argue, and battle in court to attain the best deal for the individual rather than the family. Divorcing spouses often begin to grieve for the loss of a marriage during the legal divorce process.


Bohannan regards this last station as the most important of the six. The psychic divorce Follows a period of mourning and may involve denial, anger, and depression, and finally culminates in acceptance and forgiveness. However, a spouse may never achieve a psychic divorce due to intense preoccupation and hatred towards their former partner.


Bohannan’s six stations may not occur in order and can overlap simultaneously and with different intensity levels. The process a couple uses to divorce can determine whether the journey is a long, costly process that can be acrimonious and painful or amicable and peaceful.  The divorce mediation method is a quick and affordable way for couples to divorce or separate and keep their family out of the adversarial court system.

You have a choice.  Choose mediation.

When considering a separation or divorce, the first step is to find an experienced, professional mediator to help you and your family move forward in a peaceful, affordable, and respectful manner. A quick phone chat or consultation can provide you with the information to help you decide if this is the right option for your family. If you would like to learn more about family law mediation, please schedule a consultation:

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.