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Marriages and Families: Changes, Choices and Constraints Seventh Edition Nijole V. Benokraitis Chapter Fifteen Separation and Divorce. Separation: Process and Outcome. There are several types of separation and separation can mean several things to different people.
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There are several types of separation and separation can mean several things to different people.
It can be a trial separation in which an overly-stressed couple can try living apart.
If religion does not allow divorce, it can be a more permanent arrangement.
It may be a legal separation.
Separation is usually a long and painful process that has four phases:
Preseparation—during this phase, the partners may fantasize about what it would be like to live alone, to let go of family responsibility. They may fantasize about new lovers and this may make separation seem appealing.
Couples must also confront economic issues such as paying bills.
The Phases of Separation
The couple may actually reconcile for a short time.
The Phases of Separation
The Phases of Separation
Not all separations end in divorce. Sometimes people reconcile and try and give their marriage a second try.
Research is sketchy on reconciliation, but approximately 10% of couples who have separated do reconcile.
About 6% of couples never make the divorce final. Even though they go through the process and do the necessary paperwork, they don’t get the final decision from the judge. They may in fact think they are divorced when they are not.
Divorce has been around as long as marriage has been around.
Trends in Divorce
Over a lifetime between 43 to 46% of marriages end in divorce.
Divorce rates have actually been decreasing throughout the 20th century.
Divorce rates are lower today than they were between 1975 and 1990.
Few divorces are spontaneous acts. It is usually spread over a long period of time during which couples gradually redefine their relationships and their expectations of each other.
The emotional divorce begins long before any legal steps are taken. One or both partners may feel disillusioned or unhappy in the marriage.
The couple may share the house and the rearing of the children but may not be emotionally sharing a life.
The legal divorce is the formal dissolution of a marriage. During this stage, couples reach agreements on issues like custody of children and an economic dissolution of assets. Some issues may include alimony and child support.
During the economic divorce the couple may argue about what bills each will be responsible for.
Coparental divorce involves agreements about legal responsibility for financial support of the children and of school or day care responsibilities.
Partners go through community divorce when they inform family and friends, teachers, and others that they are no longer together.
Some people actually send out formal cards announcing their divorce; others do it more informally.
The psychic divorce is the final stage, in which the couple separate from each other emotionally and establish separate lives.
One or both spouses may undergo a period of mourning. Some never complete this stage because they cannot let go of the pain, anger, and resentment toward the spouse.
People divorce for three interrelated reasons:
1. macro-level or social reasons
2. demographic variables
3. micro-level or interpersonal reasons
Macro-level reasons for divorce:
Divorce laws—all states have no-fault divorce laws now, so that neither partner needs to establish guilt or wrongdoing by the other partner to obtain a divorce.
Before no-fault divorces, one partner had to prove that the other partner did something seriously wrong to make the marriage not work, such as cheating or being abusive.
Couples now can give incompatibility as a reason for divorce.
Religious institutions—no religious group encourages divorce, but religious institutions affect divorce rates. American religions endorse marriage but also allow divorce. The Catholic Church does not allow divorce but does allow annulments for a variety of reasons.
The economy—companionate marriage emerged during the industrial revolution. No longer were people marrying because of family obligations, but because of emotional ties between husband and wife.
The economy also affects the quality of a marriage. As more couples must work long hours, they spend less time together and experience more stress.
Military service—increases marital quality due to access to higher education and better job opportunities, thus puts less stress on a marriage. However, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been seen as increasing the divorce rate as couples spend less time together.
Cultural values—Americans’ acceptance of divorce has grown.
Social integration—social bonds have decreased.
Technology—has made divorce more accessible and affordable.
Parental divorce—if the parents of one or both of the couple were divorced when the couple were young children there is more of a chance that the couple themselves will divorce.
Age at marriage—a number of studies have found that early age at marriage, especially younger than 18, increases the chance of divorce.
Premarital pregnancy and childbearing— women who conceive or give birth to a child before marriage have higher divorce rates than those who don’t.
Premarital cohabitation—couples who live together before marriage have a higher divorce rate than those who don’t. Studies have shown that cohabitators have a more lenient attitude toward divorce and less commitment.
Presence of children—the presence of especially young children in the home seems to deter divorce, perhaps because it would be more costly.
Gender—women are twice as likely as men to initiate a divorce.
Race and ethnicity—divorce rates vary by race and ethnicity. In 2007, 12% of blacks in the U.S. were divorced, compared with 11% of whites, 8% of Latinos, and 4% of Asians. Across all ethic groups, African American women have the lowest marriage rates but higher divorce rates than Latinas or Asian women.
Social class—low educational attainment, high unemployment rates, and poverty increase the likelihood of separation and divorce.
Religion—according to some studies, about 21% of spouses have different religious backgrounds. Married couples who are religious report being happier with their marriages than those who are not religious.
Similarity between spouses—spouses who are similar to each other on demographic characteristics such as age, religion, race, ethnicity, and education are less likely to divorce.
Unrealistic expectations—people now have fewer children and more time to focus on their relationship as a couple. One result is that the couple can become disillusioned.
Conflict and abuse—arguments and conflicts are major reasons for divorce for both sexes. 42% of women but only 9% of men said that domestic violence was a major reason for divorce.
Infidelity—cheating is a major reason for divorce, especially for women.
Communication—communication problems derail many marriages. Couples who stay together listen to each other respectfully even when they disagree.
Other important reasons for divorce include: many couples try to stay together for the children, but find they are dissatisfied when the children are gone; wives grow disillusioned with their husbands who can’t keep a job; underemployed men who have trouble finding work say that their wife’s nagging about the bills makes them feel worse.
Laws regarding same-sex divorce and marriage are relatively new so we know little about same-sex divorce. Studies done in other countries that have allowed same-sex marriage for some time have found similar patterns as other studies have found, such as the younger the couple is the more likely they will divorce.
Divorce is usually an agonizing process for both men and women because nearly all people enter a marriage with the expectation that it will be a lifelong partnership.
Divorce has significant effects in at least three areas of the ex-spouses’ lives: physical, emotional, and psychological.
Physical well-being—generally, divorce decreases physical well-being. Studies have found that divorce affects men and women in negative ways physically.
Married men tend to be the healthiest, largely due to economic resources.
Emotional and psychological well-being—the psychic divorce may continue for many years. Even when both partners know that their marriage cannot be salvaged, they are often ambivalent about getting divorced.
The degree of emotional and psychological distress involves other important factors.
Generally, marriage builds wealth while divorce depletes it. Married couples accumulate more wealth than single people for a variety of reasons:
Alimony—this still exists in some states.
Gender—according to some observers, no-fault divorce has done more harm than good to many women.
Age—women’s age in particular can affect income after a divorce. Especially if she has devoted her life to raising her children and being a housewife, getting a job may be difficult.
Custody is a court-mandated ruling as to which divorced parent will have the primary responsibility for the welfare and upbringing of the children. Most child-custody cases are settled out of court because they are not contested.
Sole custody—one parent has sole responsibility for raising the children.
Split custody—children may chose which parent they want to live with.
Joint custody—the children divide their time between their parents, who share in the decision making.
Co-custody—parents share legal and physical custody of their children equally.
Child support is usually a critical issue.
Because mothers get sole custody in 84% of cases, most court-ordered child support is paid by fathers.
Nearly half of all men neither see nor support their children.
The number of noncustodial fathers who saw their children did rise from 18% in 1976 to 31% in 2002.
A parent is most likely to receive full child support payments if she or he has at least a college degree, has divorced (rather than breaking up outside of marriage), and the noncustodial parent has current contact with the children and is over 40 years of age.
In 2006, 85% of mothers who received child support also had visitation arrangements with the child’s father.
Despite the laws, court-ordered child support has several problems. States vary a great deal in the extent to which they enforce court-ordered child support.
Nearly 1 million American children undergo a parental breakup before reaching adulthood.
It is always stressful for adults, but for children it is often a defining event in their lives. Children are often hurt in every way by their parent’s divorce.
The children who experience the least negative effects are those who receive support from friends, neighbors, and schools.
Parents can reassure the children that they are loved and supported by both parents.
Parents should talk about their feelings because doing so sets the stage for open communication.
They should emphasize that the children are not responsible for the problems.
They should reassure the children that they will continue to see extended family.
They should maintain an ongoing relationship with the children.
They should encourage children to talk about their feelings and experiences freely.
There can be positive outcomes of divorce. Less parental fighting can cause less stress for children.
Earlier parental separation is better for children in the long run than in growing up in an intact family where there is continuous conflict.
Counseling and divorce mediation are alternatives to the traditional adversarial approach that is typical of legal processes. Mediated divorces tend to be less bitter and less expensive and offer each partner more say in child custody arrangements.