7400.201 Courtship Marriage and the Family
Topic 17 - Separation and Divorce
A great many Americans are concerned today about the numbers of people divorcing and  about the relative ease with which people dissolve their marriages. A. During the years from 1860 to 1981, the number of divorces per one thousand  people generally increased in the United States.  The rate rose significantly during  World War II, peaked at the conclusion of the war (1945-1947), and then began to decline.  The rate remained fairly stable during the 1950s and the early 1960s and  then increased rapidly again after 1965.  By the mid 1970s, the United States had the highest divorce rate in the Western world.  After 1981, the rates tended to decline.  By 1995, they had gone down to 4.4 per one thousand people, a number  lower than any since the early 1970s.

In response to the increase in divorces, states have changed divorce laws.  The  changes reflect a different perspective on divorce: an individual rather than a  government-controlled decision.  In the 1970s, California and New York began  the trend toward no-fault divorce, which is now practiced in all States.  The  purpose of no-fault divorce laws was to remove some of the acrimony and pain from the process.  In many cases, this aim has been achieved, and proponents argue that no-fault laws also make divorce a more equitable process.  To many Americans, however, no-fault divorce appears to make divorce too easy.  Some states have adopted covenant marriage, wherein the partners agree that they will not divorce except for abuse or adultery.

Reasons for the high divorce rate in the U.S.
    • Romantic notions about marriage and Love, coupled with the freedom to make mate selections independently of others. High expectations from marriage
    • Heterogamy of social characteristics - low social support for mixed marriages
    • More liberal divorce laws and customs - relaxed social attitudes
    • Equalitarian social climate
    • Economic instability in the society

 Interpersonal Divorce Process - It is usually a process of Gradual deterioration - "Surprise, I want a divorce!" situations rarely occur. Most often, divorcing couples have ignored the maintenance of their relationship.

    Process of Deterioration
  • -disillusionment - marriage gradually becomes less personally fulfilling.
  • -testing the waters phase,- Asking the question "What if we got a divorce?"
  • -seeking outside counsel from friends.
    • -rehabilitative reaction, "it's not so bad"
    • -supportive reaction, "you will be fine" -opportunity reaction
    • -"come over, let's talk and have some wine."
    • -withdrawal reaction, friends fear "catching" your divorce.
  • seeking legal counsel
  • Most parents will agree with divorce - Most friends will be supportive
  • Reconciliations - 50% of those who initiate separations will return to the marriage for some time - on again/off again type relationships. 90% will reconcile after filing papers
  • Amicable divorces are rare - most are highly angered at each other.
Researchers have identified a number of features in the process that are common to most  divorcing couples.  Not all disaffected people divorce, and not all divorces involve disaffection.   When people do divorce, four phases tend to mark the process:
  •   1. Recognition begins when one or both spouses become aware of serious   problems.
  •   2. Discussion is the period during which one or both spouses begin to share   the marital problems with others.
  •   3. In the period of action, one of the spouses secures a lawyer in order to   legally dissolve the marriage.
  •   4. The post-dissolution period begins when both spouses accept the fact that   the marriage has ended.
Paul Bohannan discussed divorce in terms of six “stations,” or six different  experiences that people are likely to have.  The emotional divorce involves a loss  of trust, respect, and affection for each other.  The legal divorce is the only one of  the six stations that provides a tangible benefit to the partners: relief from the legal responsibilities of the marriage and the right to remarry.  The economic divorce  involves settlement of the property.  The co-parental divorce is experienced by  those with children: Decisions must be made about who will have custody,  visitation rights, and continuing parental responsibility.  The community divorce  means that each of the partners leaves one community of friends and relations and enters another.  Finally, the psychic divorce is the central separation that occurs.

Identity Reorientation - development of the "single" self is difficult depending on the duration of the marriage. The longer the marriage, the longer reorientation takes. Some factors are associated with the process of redefining oneself:
    • new surroundings are necessary
    • knowing the first year is the toughest, stressful and lonely
    • resolution of stress through social participation - getting out there when ready.
    • sexual permissiveness can increase and should be avoided
    • a good job helps increase self-image.
Patterns of Divorce - Not all divorces follow the same pattern of events:
  •  a. Enmeshed pattern: ambivalence on the part of both - enmeshed couples are most likely to reconcile or remarry each other.
  • b. Non-mutual pattern: one wants out, the other doesn't. These can be the most bitter, hard fought divorces.
  • c. Disengaged pattern: both want out. Most likely to be over sooner, and more quickly resolved.

Incidence of Marital Separation.

    • Annulment - legal termination of an invalid marriage. Conditions have to have existed prior to the marriage:
      • fraud
      • bigamy
      • insanity
      • marriage under duress.
      • Less that 3-4% of all marriages are annulled.
    • Desertion - separation contrary to the will of one spouse. The 2nd most frequent form of dissolution. This is a criminal offense, if prosecuted, but is usually reported only when financial support is requested from the state, or if used as grounds for legal divorce. Usually males do the deserting.
    • Legal separation - agreed to by both partners, it is the precursor to divorce. Persons may not marry again or have sexual contact with others during the separation period. Family debts and finances are the responsibility of the couple during this time. A Separation Agreement is made - lawyers draw up conditions for the separation regarding custody, visitation of the noncustodial parent, injunctions, debts, and child support payments.
    • Divorce - The final Legal and Social Dissolution of marriage. Responsibilities are not dissolved, only the legal marriage. Children, property, business ventures, any persons or property produced by marriage must be dispatched legally, as spelled out in the Agreement. Rising from 246,000 divorces in 1940 and leveling off to about 1.5 million a year in 1984. Divorce rates - #Divorces per 1000 married women - allows interpretations of divorce in view of population changes.
Factors influencing the probability of divorce
    Demographic Factors:
    1. age at marriage: the lower the age --> higher probability age at 1st marriage is the single most influential factor Marriage after age 22 has no statistical relationship to divorce.
    2. length (duration) of marriage - usually two peaks: a bimodal curve. Actually, logic has it that the longer the marriage, the greater the opportunity for divorce.
    3. level of education - homogamy of social characteristics and not absolute education - maybe degrees held. Greater discrepancy in education ---> greater probability of divorce. When education is INTERRUPTED, greater chance of divorce.
    4. social class - highest divorce rate in the lower/working social classes. Financial insecurity ----> marital instability, unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Younger are less financially mature and more prone to romanticism.
    5. family-of-origin stability: higher risk of divorce if parents are divorced because parental divorce --> early marriage --> divorce. All these factors have a greater effect on women than men, women marry early more often than men.
Social Environmental Factors
  1. Greater Social Acceptance of Divorce
  2. Changing Demands on Marriage and Family - fewer socially bound marriages and that the marital relationship often acts to absorb social stress from outside the marriage
  3. Dual-worker Marriages - little time for relationship
  4. Economic Changes - women now have more economic means, making them less dependent on the marriage for financial support.
Relationship Factors
    1. Fraudulent Marriage Agreements
    2. Discordant Relationships
    3. Disqualifying Relationships - one partner is blamed
    4. Collusion - a marriage is based on deviant terms - marriage if I can keep drinking or seeing other women.
    5. Violent marriages
D. Personal Factors
    1. Unrealistic Expectations and Evaluations
    2. Fading Romantic Interest
    3. Leftovers from prior Relationships

Divorce as Process - Not an Event - Most people find out by experience that divorce is a "process" - often taking months (even years) - than a single event. Depending on the degree of commitment to the marriage, and the length of marriage, the process of total divorce may take as long to complete as the marriage took to dissolve. Divorce only dissolves the legal marital relationship, not the emotional, economic, parental, community, or psychic relationships that have evolved.

Effects of Divorce

  •  Emotional Effects - divorce is an emotional crisis men are less traumatized by divorce than are women. probably because marriage is a little less valued by men than by women. Still women are more likely to initiate a divorce, then suffer from loneliness, depression, and anxiety over the future.
  • Economic Effects - Despite the institutionalization of No-fault divorce laws in almost all states, women still bear the most financial loss. In fact, women (with children in custody) suffer about a 50% reduction in their standard of living, while men enjoy about a 70% increase in their lifestyles after divorce - in states with community property laws and among no-fault divorces.
  • Social Effects Perhaps the greatest sadness of the "age of divorce" is not the loneliness suffered by the casualties, but it is the effects of divorce on children.
While social scientists once agreed that it was better for a couple with children to divorce rather than live unhappily with children observing -- now most social scientists agree that the most harmonious outcome for children is to live with their parents - regardless of the quality of the relationship of the parents to each other (barring physical violence or neglect).  There is some degree of emotional trauma suffered by children of divorced parents, depending on the age of children at the time of divorce. In most cases, this is short term. There is also the loss of a confidant and guidance counselor that is the non-custodial parent. Generally - the non-custodial parent (dads in 90% of the cases) begins with prompt child support payments and on time visitations, but gradually slacks off -- so that by the end of the first year he is delinquent in both payments and visits.

However the greatest threat to children is the loss of material wealth. Children living with their mothers are likely to have had to move into other neighborhoods, begin new school system careers, and make new friends at a time when old habits would have offered more comfort. Loss of material wealth causes these emotional upsets. In fact, non-custodial fathers somehow do not pay almost 60% of the court awarded child support payments in any given year. This fact alone is sufficient to force many single parent families into poverty, or just above the poverty line. One child in four (20%) our society lives below the government mandated poverty line (1 child in 3 if we use the poverty line + 25%) and the majority of these children are from single parent families headed by mothers. Contrary to conservative political beliefs, only 35% of these single mothers are members of any minority group. When we look at our society and observe the social problems plaguing us - drugs, runaway children, teenage prostitutes, and increasing crime rates in many areas - it is clear that there is at least one glaring cause of all of this.

If divorce results in 25% to 33% of our children living in or near poverty.....and poverty causes people to break the law to get over hard times .... and law breakers get caught and go to jail ... then in a more or less direct way - divorce is somewhat responsible for much of what we see as problematic in our society. Thinking about the SINGLE PARENT MOTHER - There are at least four areas of crisis: a. responsibility overload b. task overload c. emotional overload d. financial overload.

Factors Related to Divorce (Recap)

A. Social scientists have found that it is not just what people do that helps account  for the failure of a marriage, but also certain sociodemographic factors.
  • An inverse relationship exists between socioeconomic status and divorce   rates.
  • The younger you are when you marry, the greater your chances of divorce.
  • African Americans are more likely both to separate and to divorce than are whites; in fact, African Americans have higher rates of divorce than any other racial group in the United States.
  • Social integration is a state of relative harmony and cohesion within a group.  People who are members of an integrated group have an important source  of support, a buffer against stress.  Religious groups provide one source of social integration.  Children can also be an integrating factor.
  • Divorce has become more acceptable over time.  In the United States, we   have a “divorce culture” that is rooted in our individualism and insistence   on personal happiness.  In addition, the changing roles of women are   associated with higher divorce rates.
The foregoing sociodemographic factors are important, of course, because they  have a bearing on the way people interact.
  • Some of the complaints that surround divorce are infidelity, personality   conflicts, financial problems, lack of communication, and conflict over   roles. 
  • Some marriages are characterized by intense conflict.
  • One of the possible reasons for the slow, non-conflicted erosion of a   marriage is changed perspectives.  People change throughout their lives. 
  • One of the consequences of divorce is likely to be an increase in emotional  problems.  But not all problems are the result of divorce; some exist   prior and contribute to the deterioration of the relationship.
There are both negative and positive consequences of divorce.
  • Among the positive outcomes of divorce include feeling worthwhile as a person,  experiencing personal growth and maturity, feelings of relief, and feelings of  being closer to one’s children.
  • Problems with physical and emotional health are common among people who are  in the process of divorcing.
  • Divorce is not likely to be financially beneficial for men nor is it as financially  detrimental to women as it once was.
  • A divorce doesn’t necessarily end interaction between former spouses.  The  quality of the interaction between ex-spouses varies considerably.  Psychologist  Constance Ahrons found four types of relationships between ex-spouses: fiery  foes, angry associates, cooperative colleagues, and perfect pals.
Divorce can be a very painful experience for children. 
  •  In the short term, children are likely to suffer a variety of physical and emotional  problems when their parents divorce: intense anger, self-blame, fears about the  future, physical health problems, self-concept difficulty, more school problems,  and higher rates of drug use and premarital sex.
  •  In the long term, there can be both detrimental and beneficial effects.  If some of  the effects are positive, others are neutral.  Among the negative effects are lower  levels of psychological well-being, more negative attitudes toward marriage,  lower levels of trust, and a higher risk of premature mortality across the life span.
  •  Girls tend to adjust more easily to divorce than do boys.
Custody arrangements can be very painful for both the parents and the children.  Increasingly in the twentieth century, mothers were granted custody under the “tender years” doctrine. After the mid-1960s, an increasing number of fathers won the right to sole custody.  Joint custody is another option, in which both parents continue to share the responsibility for the care and rearing of the children.  Joint custody arrangements seem to be more satisfying to both children and parents.
For children, coping with the disruption of divorce depends in part on the behavior of parents.  Children adjust better to the extent that the divorce reduces the conflict between  the parents.  Divorced parents will help their children adjust to the extent that they have a  sense of control over their child-rearing responsibilities.  If the parents adjust well to a  divorce, then they will help their children to adjust.