Professor Marshall

LESSON 8: Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage

Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage


Historical Changes in Divorce

Divorce Transitions and Stigma Economic Difficulties for Women/Divorce as an Opportunity Remarriage Children and Divorce (Custody and Support) Divorced Fathers Question: What is the approximate divorce rate in the United states today? Divorce Measurements Correlates of Divorce Historical Changes In Divorce In UK Not available until late 1600s, and even then (until 1853) could only be obtained by a decree from Parliament In US Near record high in 1990s, but declining since then Available for last 400 years Divorce is not a settled issue in the U.S.

2 opposing sides

The Anti-divorce rights faction The Pro-divorce rights faction Anti-Divorce Rights "Side" Believe that there are only a few legitimate reason for divorce Adultery Insanity Consanguinity/marriage between blood relatives Pro Divorce Rights "Side" Divorce is a citizen's right in a democratic society Divorce is a symptom, not a cause of underlying problems in a marriage and society Points to the STRUCTURE of marriage, society Supporters of divorce rights Divorce is sometimes a solution to certain kinds of problems Hope that making divorce easy to obtain might lead to greater equality in marriage

Divorce Timeline

Changes in Divorce in the 70s California 1st state to enforce No Fault Divorce Laws in the Western world By 1985 All states had adopted some version of No Fault Divorce Laws These laws can be problematic AND beneficial for women and children

Covenant Marriage (CM) Legislation

1990s Anti-divorce believers won legal ground to promote covenant marriage to replace no fault Louisiana, Arizona, and Arkansas have enacted CM legislation 15 states have considered the law and rejected it 20 other states are considering it Covenant Marriage (CM) Legislation Covenant laws State that divorce is only for the following reasons Adultery by the OTHER spouse (important distinction) If YOU committed it, this is not a reason for YOU to file for divorce Commission of a serious felony (murder, etc) Abandonment by the OTHER spouse for at least 1 year; living separately for 2+ years Physical or sexual abuse of spouse of child Alcohol or drug abuse Cruel treatment or severe ill treatment Irreconcilable differences is not acceptable for divorce

Divorce Transitions

Divorce Transitions: Ahrons conducts long term study of 196 people who want divorce Although it takes a short time to say "I want a divorce" it can take a long time to get a divorce 5 transitions compromised the divorce experience Decision, announcement, separation, formal, aftermath First 3 happen before the formal divorce Final 2 happen after the divorce as the two parties separate and work through emotions, family (particularly children), and possible remarriage Changes in laws show that divorce is becoming more and more accepted 1962 polling: 51% of parents should not stay together for the sake of the kids 1985 polling: 82% of parents should not stay together for the sake of the kids Divorced/separated feel stigmatized in 2 ways The conditions in which the divorce took place Informal relational sanctions As a result, divorcees generally socialize with other divorced people Divorces are not looked down upon anymore but the divorced are still set apart Social Stigmatization (Erving Goffman): Occurs when people are perceived to be different and less worthy then other people because of their behavior or appearance Asian American women suffer more drastically and with severe emotional hardships after a divorce because of their cultural values of controlling and hiding negative feelings (Young Song)

Economic Difficulties for Women

Women who divorce Experience at least a 50% decline in family income Experience at least a 20% decline in yearly income of the household Despite this many women still are happier Middle Class divorcees Worry about maintaining lifestyles, tuitions, and mortgages Working class divorcees Struggle to meet basic expenses Poverty-level divorcees Can't make ends meet Many women Take second jobs or move back in with their parents 90% of women Divorce caused them to be pushed below, or close to below, the poverty line

Negative Consequences of Divorce

Why does NO FAULT have negative economic consequences? Do not work as intended b/c marriage equality does not exist Couples make choice to improve education/earning ability of the husband Improves economic standing while married, but after divorce, is not divided equally Is considered the husband's "property" Wives invest less in their education/earning ability Difficult to support themselves upon leaving a marriage Negative Consequences of Divorce Why does NO FAULT have negative economic consequences? Alimony is very rare and the payments are small Division of property creates disadvantages (largest asset is the house) Before no-fault: home was given to spouse with custody of children Now: courts insist on selling the house and dividing the equity Division of property makes the assumption everything is split equally Instead of going to two individuals, one-half goes to the father and the other half goes to the mother who also usually has the children

Divorce as an Opportunity

Not all cases of divorce cause pain Some divorces can have a great positive effect Many see divorce as opportunity to end difficult/destructive relationships 61% of women had positive feelings towards their divorce five years later Women find a happier and more content feeling of being able to fix things, make their own economic decisions, manage their own bills, and decide on choices for their own future Women find satisfaction in being themselves and spending time alone Lastly, women find a new sense of identity after leaving a marriage: they feel freedom, individuality, and the opportunity to start over


For many, divorce is followed by remarriage 75% of people who divorce will remarry The younger the divorcee, the sooner the remarriage (typically) By Race/Gender/Children 54% of all women will remarry within 5 years after divorce 58% white women, 44% Hispanic women, 32% black women More children women have = less likely to remarry Men are more likely to remarry and do so more quickly Remarriage rates are lower today What are the structural and individual factors contributing to lower remarriage rates?

Challenges of Remarriage

Transition to first marriage is similar to transition to remarriage Remarried couples must integrate each others families as well as the ex spouses family for children's sake Creates a complex, binuclear family Biological parents, stepparents, step siblings, half siblings Issues of Blended Families Challenging to describe binuclear family relationships Few legal regulations or protections for binuclear families Difficulties negotiating all the relationships

Children and Divorce

Problems of children of divorced parents Not easy to tell where problems start Are problems caused by: Parents divorcing? Troubles in the family leading to the divorce? Economic decline experienced by divorced single-parent families? 30% of marriages are highly conflictual In these cases divorce is beneficial for children 70% of marriages that end in divorce are low conflict May cause more problems than it resolves for children 82% of children said they felt at least a little sad Confusion and fear common Children interviewed 1 yr later, and some of their negative feelings had diminished 1/3 said they felt at least a little glad 28% said they didn't feel sad at all 80% said they didn't feel guilty at all When asked about what was worse about their lives since the divorce 1/3 said not having their father in the house 1/3 said nothing was worse

Divorced Mothers

When asked what they felt the effect of the divorce had been on their children: 8% of mothers felt that the divorce had a positive effect because violence in the marriage had stopped 46% felt that the children had not experienced any particular problems with the divorce, although they also didn't describe it as beneficial 38% of the mothers reported concerns about their children, describing them as angry, hurt, or worried

Allen Li Longitudinal Study

Li studied how divorce affected children Measured children's behavior every 2 years Concluded: no significant differences in problem behaviors in the divorced group before and after the divorce Large representative national sample, which means we can generalize the results to the population of the United States Doesn't mean that some children may have developed problematic behaviors as a result of their experience of divorce Means that, on average, divorce does not have a negative effect on children

Key Factors for Children and Divorce

2 factors for children damaged by divorce vs. those who are not Parents must remain cooperative with one another and mutually supportive of the children Children must be allowed to maintain relationships with all family members Includes fathers who were important positive parts of their lives, but also grandparents, stepsiblings, and others who are sometimes cut off from children after a divorce In some states policies mandate or support parents efforts: mediation, divorce education programs, parenting programs, parenting plans, and joint custody 1978 national sample 17% reported visiting at least once a week 50% had not seen their fathers in the past year 1988 survey 25% reported visiting at least once a week 18% had not seen their fathers in the past year 1999 survey 28% reported visiting at least once a week 16% had not seen their fathers in the previous year

Child Custody

More mothers awarded custody of their children Partly based on emphasis on motherhood and idea called the "principle of tender years" Today, 85% of children are awarded to the custody of their mothers More "natural" for mothers to keep children Fathers don't know how to care for children, aren't interested in custody, alcohol or drug abuse Fathers are discriminated against in family court proceedings Women are more likely to file for custody (80% of child custody decisions go uncontested) Fathers Have an economic advantage More likely to have the money to hire attorneys to seek custody Courts are beginning to select the parent who they believe can best provide for the material needs of the child

Child Support

Money paid by noncustodial parent Child support has 2 problems Awards are not sufficient Support is frequently not paid These numbers are even worse if we look at poor parents Why don't men pay? Do not have sufficient funds to make the payments They feel their relationships with their children are no longer close They do not believe the mother spends the money on the child Believe that the judges are biased and set unreasonably high awards

Divorced Fathers

Struggle to hold relationships with children Women are most likely to gain custody May encourage fathers to Extreme measures Stalking former wives Use of violence Child abduction Less violent measures Refusing to pay child support Continuing to challenge custody decisions

Different ways divorced men cope:

Traditionalists Neo-traditionalists Innovators Traditionalists Limit contact with former wives Define former wife as "the enemy" Distressed about loss of control over their former wives and children Main way of responding is to disengage, avoiding contact and responsibility for their ex-wives or children Neotraditionalists Have some animosity toward former wife but wants to maintain contact with kids, so decide to control feelings Stay close with children, but avoid former wife Especially concerned about being the male role model for children, rather than just being a weekend visitor They believe that their ex-wife doesn't understand that they offer something to their kids that mothers can't offer Innovators Focus mostly on their parental responsibility for their children Do not find it easy to develop cooperation with their wives, but are willing to be very flexible, rearranging schedules and finding options in order to create parenting partnerships with their ex-wife More able to set aside their anger at their former wife and to dismiss conventional views of masculinity than the other two types of fathers