Separation and Divorce Chapter 15 Separation and Divorce Divorce rates and our reactions have changed dramatically. About 20% of American adults have divorced at least once. 85% of divorced mothers have custody of their children. Nearly 40% of students using this textbook probably come from divorced homes. Separation: Process and Outcome Separation may be a temporary time out from a stressful marriage, allowing partners to decide whether to continue the marriage and to see what living apart feels like. may be a permanent arrangement because some religious beliefs do not allow divorce. Most states require legal separation—a temporary period of living apart—before granting a divorce. Separation: Process and Outcome Phases of Separation: Preseparation Partners may fantasize about living alone, escaping family responsibilities, or forming new sexual liaisons. The couple splits up. They often maintain a pretense that nothing is wrong. Early Separation Social norms are unclear concerning who should move out, what they should tell people, and who gets what. Partners may have ambivalent feelings toward leaving the marriage. They must confront economic issues. Midseparation Pressures of maintaining two households and meeting children’s needs mount, stress intensifies. Couples may experience “pseudo-reconciliation,” moving back together because of separation problems, but this rarely lasts. Late Separation Partners must learn how to survive as singles again. Especially stressful for men raised with traditional gender role expectations Both partners must help children deal with the separation. Outcomes of Marital Separation Approximately 10% of currently married U.S. couples who have separated later reconciled. Women separating after age 23 are more likely to reconcile than are younger women. Most people who separate end the marriage with divorce, but 6% never make the divorce official. Long-term separations are most likely among those with lower education, lower income, and the unemployed. Divorce, the legal and formal dissolution of a marriage, is not a new phenomenon. Termination of marriage has been permitted for at least 4,000 years in some cultures. Trends in Divorce About one in five Americans has ever been divorced. Rates are lower than those incorrectly reported by the media. Rates increased until the 1980s, but have been decreasing since 1995. Cohabitating and then breaking up - e.g. remaining single - has the effect of decreasing divorce rates. The Process of Divorce According to Bohannon (1971), there are six “stations” of divorce. Emotional divorce begins before any legal steps are taken. One or both partners may feel disillusioned, unhappy, or rejected, and detach emotionally. Legal divorce Legal Divorce is the formal dissolution of the marriage. Partners settle issues such as child custody and property division. One spouse may pay Alimony (spousal maintenance) or Child support (child rearing expenses). Economic divorce Couples argue about finances such as children’s expenses and retirement. Coparental divorce involves agreements regarding legal responsibility for financial support of the children, day to day care, and custodial rights. Community Divorce Relationships with friends, acquaintances, and relatives may change. Psychic divorce Couples separate from each other emotionally and establish separate lives. Why do People Divorce? Macro (societal) Micro (interpersonal) Changing social institutions Unrealistic expectations Low social integration Conflict and Abuse Changing gender roles Infidelity Cultural values Communication Technology Why do People Divorce? Demographic Parental divorce Age at marriage Premarital pregnancy and childbearing Presence of children Race and ethnicity Social Class Religion How Divorce Affects Adults Physical, Emotional, and Psychological Effects Divorced people report greater social isolation, economic hardship, and stress, and have less social support and less satisfying sex lives. Preexisting problems, rather than (or in addition to) the divorce, may lower people’s well-being. Economic and Financial Changes Divorced couples often have two sets of expenses. Alimony is less common than in the past. The economic well being of mothers typically declines by 36% and financial status of fathers improves by 28%. Custody Issues Custody is a court mandated ruling as to which parent will have primary responsibility for the children’s welfare and upbringing. In sole custody (81%) one parent has sole responsibility for raising the child and the other parent has specified visitation rights. In split custody (2%) the children are divided between the parents either by sex or by the children’s choice. In joint custody (16%) the children divide their time between parents who share in decisions about their upbringing. In joint legal custody parents share decision making. In joint physical custody the court specifies how much time children will spend in each parent’s home. Co-custody refers to parents equally sharing physical and legal custody. Co-custody is a heated issue with mixed outcomes for adults and children. Child Support Nearly 50% of all men neither see nor support their children after a divorce. Average annual child support: $3,192 to custodial mothers $2,881 to custodial fathers Child Support Child support increases with parental involvement, especially joint custody and visitation. 77% of custodial parents (mostly mothers) receive full or partial support payments, compared with 5% of those without shared custody or visitations. Nonpaying fathers fall into four categories (Nuta, 1986): Parent in pain feels shut out and distances himself from his children Overextended parent overburdened with financial obligations Vengeful parent uses nonpayment to punish his wife Irresponsible parent does not take parental duties seriously Child Support Enforcement of Child Support Federal legislation requires states to deduct payments from delinquent parents’ paychecks and tax returns, mandates award levels to keep up with inflation makes it a felony to cross state lines to evade support Enforcement of child-support laws is inconsistent. Does Child Support Improve Children’s Lives? Child support is the second largest source of income for employed poor mothers. Child support may motivate low-income fathers to work. Some fathers who can’t afford support may avoid their children. How Divorce Affects Children: Absent Fathers About 15% of fathers get custody of their children. 31% of noncustodial fathers have no contact with children, and only a third see their children at least once a week. Children who receive child support have better educational achievement. Children and mothers are better off having minimal contact with abusive fathers. Fathers who maintain close ties with their children can reestablish children’s trust in adults. How Divorce Affects Children Parents as peers: Divorced parents may make the mistake of treating their children like peers, seeing them as more mature than they really are and depending on them for emotional support. The children may feel anger, resentment, sadness, or guilt. Sometimes mothers and children may become closer. What Hurts Children During and After Divorce? Children of divorce experience problems in academic achievement, behavior, self-concept, and health. Divorce crystallizes rather than creates family problems. Parents’ attitudes may affect children more than the divorce itself. Ending a highly conflicted marriage may improve children’s well-being. Quality of parenting is important in children’s adjustment. Financial problems, especially for women, negatively impact children. If divorce hurts schooling, the disadvantage cumulates through life. How Divorce Affects Children What Helps Children During and After Divorce? Support from friends, neighbors, and schools. Parents who provide warmth, responsiveness, monitoring, involvement in activities, and keeping children out of parental battlegrounds. Reassurance that parents will love and care for children, will remain actively involved with them, and that children are free to love both parents. Open communication between parents and children. Emphasis that the children are not responsible for the parents’ problems. Reassurance that children will continue to see their grandparents on both sides. An ongoing relationship with the noncustodial parent. Teens and young adults want to talk with significant people in their lives about their feelings and experiences. Some Positive Outcomes of Separation and Divorce Most divorced couples and their children adjust and function well over time. The major positive outcome of divorce is that it provides options for people in miserable marriages. Parental separation is better for children in the long run than remaining in an intact family where there is continuous conflict. Divorce can offer parents and children growth, better relationships, and an improved family life. Counseling and Marital Therapy Every year over 3% of married couples see a professional for marital problems. There are no national scientific studies of effectiveness. Counseling can be useful if therapists are impartial. Much counseling and therapy fails because of untrained or inexperienced therapists. Many counselors promote marriage and discourage divorce, which may not be beneficial in many cases. Not all marriages are salvageable. Many jurisdictions order divorcing parents to attend seminars to learn about children’s needs during divorce. In divorce mediation a trained arbitrator helps the divorcing couple agree on custody, support, and property division. Divorce mediation increases communication while reducing the time needed to negotiate a settlement through the court. The less informed spouse may be at a disadvantage in mediation.