The Truth About Divorce: Financial and Emotional Impacts with ADR Times

The Truth About Divorce: Financial and Emotional Impacts with ADR Times

The Truth About Divorce: Financial and Emotional Impacts with ADR Times

Divorce can have a profound impact on the emotional and mental health of several women, men, and children around the globe. In this article, we will discuss what that impact is, as well as how divorces may impact the well-being of young children and the couples dealing with the divorce themselves.

What is the Impact of Divorce on the Men and Women Involved?

Divorces are especially prevalent in the United States, wherein roughly 50% of the total population opts for a divorce in their lifetime. This figure jumps to a little over 60% when individuals enter into their second marriage. One can only speculate as to what the reason is for this high rate of divorce, as there are no current statistics for the reasoning behind this decision. The statistics available do not really help to shed light on the reasoning, because the vast majority of the U.S. population consists of the “baby boomer” generation, or an older population of people born generally between the years 1944 and 1964. These people are far older than the typical age of most divorcees. Additionally, the reality of divorce is often defined by depression, the loss of a sense for the future, and a sudden drop in the lifestyle and income an individual has grown used to living with. Perhaps the individual filing for a divorce has lost all sexual attraction to their partner, or maybe the two individuals were involved in a high-conflict marriage. In any event, there are a few, concrete statistics we can delve into when it comes to the experience both men and women share of divorce.

Women file for a divorce two times more often than the average man does. Surprisingly, women are granted full custody of their children approximately 90% of the time, even though over half of the individuals living at or below the poverty line in the United States are women and children who have gone through a divorce. This fact can be a devastating emotional blow for men that have a close relationship with their offspring and can take a devastating financial toll on women going through a divorce with no negotiation. Some mothers receive nothing in child support care, however, up to 75% of women end up obtaining some form of court-ordered child support. While women may feel less stressed than men after a divorce has been finalized, men, in general, wed a new partner far more quickly. Women who choose to utilize a childcare center are more likely to face some form of social stigma. Conversely, men who choose to utilize some form of childcare are more likely to receive encouragement and support. When it comes to the topic of divorce, men are more hesitant to go through with it, and are more likely to try to salvage a marriage.

What is the Impact of Divorce on Children?

In recent years, newer research of the impact of divorce on children has shown that divorce does not impact children nearly to the extent as previous research suggests. In previous years, it was thought that children who suffered through a divorce would naturally come out the other end with mental problems such as depression or would end up having trouble with the law or with schooling. Now we understand that the most negative impact divorce has on children is that of conflict between the two divorced individuals, rather than the custody schedule or the divorce in and of itself. In fact, issues such as depression or trouble in school are more likely to have occurred as the couple were wedded, thanks to the conflicts involved, rather than after the couple has divorced. Children grow up to become more successful with two stable parents who are able to communicate efficiently and negotiate with each other.

Children respond to an impending divorce in several different ways, however, there are three common factors that help determine how they will react. These factors include how close of a bond they have with each of their parents, how much conflict the couple had over the course of their marriage, and the parental figures’ ability to set aside their differences and focus on the needs of their kids during the divorce process. Much like older studies were inaccurate in their estimations on mental issues and schooling issues, they were also inaccurate in their analysis of how the two sexes responded to the event of divorce, in the sense that they suggested boys had a more difficult time adjusting to a divorce than their female counterparts. In reality, boys and girls react to divorce in a very similar manner. The main difference between the two is that boys often express their suffering and anger outwardly, whereas girls have a tendency to internalize their anger, to the point where their sleeping habits or eating habits may be affected. A divorce, in financial terms, affects the children directly, because the parents’ ability to provide the level of after-school activities and new clothes are somewhat hindered.

Children need both parents in order to fully understand how romantic relationships are meant to function. In fact, children may develop different attachment styles based off of their original attachment to their parents. There are two common attachment styles children may develop: a secure attachment style and an insecure attachment style. Children with a secure attachment style successfully emotionally attach to both of their parents, thereby increasing their likelihood of emotional fulfillment with other partners in their later adult life.

Children with an insecure style of attachment, however, do not emotionally connect with one or more of their parents. Instead of associating intimacy with security, these children learn to associate intimacy with either abandonment or with being suffocated. Children with an insecure attachment style based on abandonment develop this issue because of one or more parents being unable to provide for the child’s emotional needs. Children with an insecure attachment style based on a feeling of being suffocated often have one or more parents that step on over a child’s boundaries. As these children with an insecure attachment style grow into adulthood, they may respond to a new relationship with excitement and love initially, however, as the relationship demands a deepening of intimacy, they are likely to respond with either emotion that a parent evoked from them in their childhood, whether that be feelings of suffocation or feelings of abandonment. Of course, if their partner has a secure attachment style, they most likely will not consciously be aware of this fact. This is why it is important for children to have a close and secure relationship with both of their parents.

Still, how children respond to divorce varies from child to child. Some children may grow closer to each of their respective parents in a way that they were previously unable to. This can quickly backfire, though, if one parent chooses to talk poorly about the other parent to the child. Both parents need to be able to discuss issues and negotiate with each other without conflict or involvement of the child or children. Another possibility is that each parent may remarry, which could then allow the child or children to have even more supportive role models in their lives.

How Children May Adapt Their Behavior to a Divorce

Children may change their behavior post-divorce based on what kind of relationship they had with each of their parents before they divorced, how intensely the parents had engaged in conflict before they divorced, and how well each of the parents were able to separate issues with their partner from the wants and needs of their kids.

Some children respond to separation by denial of the divorce entirely. This denial can surface as voicing fantasies revolving around the parents and the child doing fun things together or embarking on adventures as an in-tact family unit. Another common reaction that children have to parents separating is with fearing abandonment. If children do not feel like they are allowed to have a good relationship with one of their parents, they tend to feel conflicted on how to show their loyalty to both of their parents. In more extreme cases, this situation can cause the child to “turn” against the other parent that is deemed “bad.”

Children are naturally curious and will want to know all of the details surrounding the divorce. Parents will have to be mindful and only share information that is appropriate for the age of the child or children. Children may also come across as hostile to their peers or to their parents. When children internalize hostility, they can become lethargic or despondent, and may unintentionally change their eating or sleeping patterns. Other ways in which children can respond to a divorce include wetting the bed or speaking as though they were younger than they actually are, in order to gain assurance that both of their parents still love and care about them. On the opposite end of the spectrum, children can sometimes try to take charge of the situation and act as though they themselves are the real parental figures, when they sense that needs of either parents are not being met. When it does not seem as though both parents are each making a concerted effort to move on with their lives, children will often try to get the parents to reconcile their differences by forcing the parents to interact in one form or another. Children, and younger children in particular, often do this because they confuse arguments and conflicts between parents as a form of intimacy. Children can feel guilty for the divorce, and assume that they are the reason behind the breakdown of the family unit. This is a common reaction when there are arguments between the divorced couple about visitation scheduling. Parents should take the time to figure out how they feel about the divorce situation, instead of immediately blaming the child or the other parent for behavioral issues that may crop up, because children reflect the feelings of their parents more often than not.

How to Spot When Toddlers or Infants are Stressed from a Divorce?

Children who are toddlers or younger may regress in their development if they are stressed, such as with toilet training. They may stop learning new skills all together. They also may develop sleeping issues such as insomnia. Also, they may have more temper tantrums and crying than normal; they will not respond to negotiations.

How to Spot When Children 3 to 5 Years of Age are Stressed from a Divorce?

Children in this age group may suddenly strike an interest in toys they previously abandoned or exhibit infantile behaviors like sucking their thumb. Much like their younger counterparts, these kids can experience difficulty with sleeping if they are stressed. Unlike infants or toddlers, however, children between three and five years of age use their imaginations more, and will use their colorful imaginations to act as if the family is still together.

How to Spot When Children 6 to 8 Years of Age are Stressed from a Divorce?

Children six to eight years of age may experience trouble with their ability to control impulsivity, and may struggle with which parent to give their full loyalty too. Children of this age are more prone to black and white morality. In other words, this is the age group where children are more likely to turn against one parent if both parents are not careful with what information they share with the child.

How to Spot When Children 9 to 12 Years of Age are Stressed from a Divorce?

Children in this age group may feel as though they are social outcasts, even though other children are likely to have experienced the same situation, because half of all marriages end in divorce. Additionally, they may experience physical signs of stress, such as tummy aches or headaches.

How to Spot When Teenagers are Stressed from a Divorce?

Adolescence is universally accepted to be a difficult time in most peoples’ lives, even in households that are in-tact. Their bodies are changing into a body they will have for most of their adult lives, and with this comes an influx of hormones and periods in girls and voice changes in boys. Therefore, divorce can be especially trying on this age group, as they are old enough to have fond memories of the family unit being together, while still trying to understand their identity and where they fit in the world.

No doubt, when wind comes of their parents’ divorce, teenagers can show signs of stress such as feeling as though they are forced to become independent, and they may come to assume future relationships are doomed based off of their parents’ divorce. In some cases, teenagers may even develop chronic fatigue syndrome due to the stress this situation can provoke, along with all of the other anxiety that comes with being a teenager.

How do Both Women and Men Emotionally Respond to a Divorce?

Because human beings are naturally social creatures who rely on one another for our emotional and physical well-being, the end of a relationship can signify a devastating loss for both parties involved. The person in the partnership who initiates the divorce may doubt themselves, feel guilty for hurting the other person by initiating a divorce, and may even experience anxiety in regards to how their partner may or may not react to the news of their desire to divorce. The party that is on the receiving end of the divorce may experience emotions ranging from betrayal to wanting to reconcile the relationship and have negotiations with their partner.

The first one or two years before a couple decides to get a divorce are often spent with both couples living in denial about each other. During this period of time, couples often feel a sense of distrust for their partner and arguments are happening more frequently. The partner who is more dissatisfied with the marriage will usually be the first to consider how and when to break the idea of divorce to their partner. Communication breaks down as problems become more and more ignored. About eight to twelve months before the legal process of divorce begins, couples generally try to save their marriage by seeking out marital therapy or by trying to reignite the initial passion they had at the beginning of the relationship. Couples who are unable to salvage their relationship will experience feelings of guilt and are more likely to express discontent over the relationship. Six to twelve months before the divorce goes through the legal process, both parties can experience anger and anxiety about the future, as well as what their new lives will look like. They have likely gone through rounds of discussions without any willingness for negotiation.

When the couple actually goes forth with their plan to separate legally, this is when the loyalty amongst friends and family is decided. Both partners tend to create a new identity for themselves without their partner. This is also typically the point in time in which children will find out about the divorce and may act out in different ways, depending on how old they are. One partner may leave the household to provide a physical distance from their soon-to-be spouse. What happens when they legally begin the divorcing process will naturally set the tone for friends, their children, and family members throughout the course of the divorce.

Either during the divorcing process or after, the couple slowly starts to gain acceptance for themselves and the situation at hand. They adjust emotionally and physically to the loss of their partner and forge a stronger understanding of what each of them wants and craves out of life. During this stage of divorce, couples can move from a place of anger to a place of forgiveness and a newfound respect for themselves as co-parents instead of as a couple. Both parties will feel a strong sense of excitement for the future and will behave in ways that suggest they have been given a second chance at life.

Fortunately, psychologists have been able to identify the key emotional stages that come with an impending divorce. The emotional stages of a divorce are based on a few core principles. One is the understanding that the breakdown of the marriage likely occurred over an extended period of time, and is almost never entirely the fault of one partner in the partnership. Two, is that divorcing a person almost always requires a certain level of emotional distancing by one or both parties.

Many partners will try to distance themselves from their partner through the means of finding as many arbitrary faults with their significant other as they possibly can. When someone can paint another as being part of an evil archetype, it makes it that much easier to drop any sense of personal responsibility at the end of the relationship. This lack of owning up to one’s faults may devolve into devoting all of one’s energy towards seeing themselves as blameless. Partners may also attempt to write-off the marriage completely, and may view escaping the marriage as a great outcome. Viewing a whole marriage under this rationale can be incredibly detrimental for both the partner who has initiated the divorce as well as the partner who is on the receiving end of the divorce, simply due to the fact that this rationalization minimizes the emotional experience of both people. In truth, marriage had some positives that came with it, otherwise, neither partner would have stayed together or gotten married in the first place. There were problems in the marriage that could not be resolved, sure, but the full emotions that both parties experienced over the course of their marriage needs to be fully recognized and validated for both individuals in order for both of them to heal and move on with their lives.

Mediation, Arbitration, and Collaborating – The ADR Times Approach to Resolving a Divorce

Couples who decide to follow through with a court litigation procedure for their divorce will pay a hefty fee to exert power over the other party. Divorces that go through litigation can separately cost each party between five and thirty grand. Because attorneys have a vested interest in fighting for the interests of their clients, factors such as what custody arrangement would be best for the children and how the extended family will get along get pushed to the wayside. This is problematic, since both parties are more focused on hurting each other by changing the locks on the doors or by fighting over bank accounts without any negotiation.

Anyone who has gone through a divorce or is currently going through one will say that a divorce forces us to make some of the most difficult decisions of our lives. Some married folk choose to get the help and advice of a mediator which is usually an outside party that provides a safe space for these couples to air their opinions in order to negotiate a mutually beneficial settlement through mediation. Mediation allows people to come out the other side of divorce owing less money for the cost of the divorce and the ability to have a more fair agreement, because mediators can help prevent couples from paying exorbitant fees on the divorce. Instead, mediators can help couples to learn negotiation tactics in order to deal with tougher issues, such as how to divide wealth and how to split up the custody with their children in a manner that will be beneficial for all parties involved, including the parents and the extended family.

Mediators help with the emotional aspects of the divorce, too. They can help couples to understand where they failed on a personal level to tend to their marriage in a way that honors the needs and wants of both themselves and each other. In this way, couples can end their marriage with understanding and acceptance.

The caveat to mediation as an approach of attempting to resolve a divorce is that the mediators themselves are not legally able to provide any legal advice to either party. Instead, the mediator reviews the mediation agreement with both parties and offers more insight as to what the two parties are really signing. If someone is ending their marriage on more amicable terms, mediation is a wonderful alternative to going through a lengthier court case.

Arbitration, by contrast, removes decision-making from the couple almost entirely, and hands over that responsibility to a third party. Arbitration is less expensive than going through a court case, however, if one party wants to maintain some form of control or the ability to add negotiations over the divorce process, this is probably not the best option. As long as a couple is comfortable being provided solutions from a third party, this is a reasonable solution to settling a divorce.

Collaboration involves a team of several professionals, be they experts in law or finance, or in some cases, child advocates. Since the couple using collaboration splits the costs amongst themselves, the cost of using these professional services is kept to a minimum. This response to a divorce is one of the most popular responses, because both parties are able to get the professional help they need.

Which approach a couple decides to take to settle their divorce will depend upon their own personal values as well as how much conflict has occurred over the course of their marriage. Couples who have had high emotional conflicts over the course of a decade will have a different approach to the divorce process than, say, couples who have been together two and three years and have decided they are incompatible.

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Mark Fotohabadi
As Co-Founder & Publisher of ADR Times, Mark Fotohabadi, PhD, MBA, MDR is a visionary and hands-on serial entrepreneur and educator, who has successfully co-founded and led half a dozen companies to sustained profitability and disruptive change in their respective fields.Mark holds a Ph.D. in Leadership from Alliant International University; an MBA in Finance from Pepperdine’s Graziadio School of Business; a Master in Dispute Resolution (MDR) degree from the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, at Pepperdine Caruso School of Law; and a BSc degree in Urban & Regional Planning from Cal Poly Pomona.Mark can be reached at (800) 616-1202 xt 701; and via email: [email protected]