Marriage, Divorce and the Working Class Blues

November 18th, 2016

Of all the milestones on the road to adulthood, poorer and less well-educated Americans are taking a pass at one of the important — marriage.
The trend began four decades ago, but has become more pronounced as it has become more visible. Since 1970, each cohort of young adults has been less likely to marry than the previous generation. The trend can be attributed to the fact that people marry when they are older, and Pew projects that a quarter of young adults will remain unmarried by 2030 — the highest share in modern history.

Amid ever widening economic inequalities, poorer and less educated Americans no longer marry and build up a nest egg as a but rather build up their household prior to marriage. This appears to be a return to a time when people believed they needed a measure of establishment before walking down the aisle. In other words, marriage has gone from being a way that people pulled their lives together to something they agree to once they have already done that independently.

Commentators at both ends of the political spectrum debate the relationship among marriage, parenthood and poverty, but young people seem to believe marriage is not necessary. This shift could reshape not just American families, but also policies like those around taxes, children and entitlements.

In many ways, the retreat from marriage is the result of evolving gender roles, but the decline in marriage is also a result of the country’s deepening socioeconomic divide. Until a few decades ago, marriage was mostly an economic equation, according to Nobel Prize winning economist Gary Becker. Husbands earned money to support a family; wives ran the household.

The rise of birth control, household technology and women in the work force made marriage became less about economics and more about love, according to historian Stephanie Coontz, the author of Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage.

Educated, high-income people still marry at high rates and stay married, according to economists and demographers who study the issue. Remaining unmarried is more common among the less educated, blacks and the young, Pew found, and so is divorce.

Men remain unmarried more frequently than women — 23 percent to 17 percent. Part of that is linked to the fact that the share of men aged 25 to 54 who are not working has been increasing for 50 years. At the same time, 78 percent of never-married women say that a mate with a steady job is more important than any other quality in a spouse. Pew analyzed the pool of employed, unmarried men, compared with all unmarried women. There are 65 employed men for every 100 women.

The job market is not friendly to men who do not have a college degree and this man doesn’t appear to be a good prospect for women said Isabel Sawhill, co-director of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution and the author of Generation Unbound: Drifting Into Sex and Parenthood Without Marriage.

Yet she said it‘s not entirely an economic phenomenon; it’s also one about shifting social roles. Professional men are not threatened by women who do well for herself professionally she said. On the other hand, the working class man is a little threatened or intimidated by a woman who makes more money than he does and as a result makes more demands.

And as modern marriages have become more about love than about survival, it has become an indulgence that is easier for well-off people to take advantage of, said Justin Wolfers, an economist who has studied marriage and divorce. The benefits of sharing passions are more likely to accrue to people who have the time and money to invest in them, he said.

Separation, Not Divorced

November 7th, 2016

Sometimes, (usually when economic pressures force them) unhappy couples choose to live separately rather than divorce. During a sharp recession (such as the one that began in 2008 and seems to linger still), many couples find they cannot afford a divorce when it means selling off real estate (in a deflated market), paying off debts (with money they don’t have) and hiring attorneys (who will leave them poorer).

Of course, while some couples separate in hopes of reconciliation after coming to terms with the reasons their marriage might be falling apart, many couples today live apart without divorcing.

The 50 jurisdictions and the District of Colombia treat living apart and separate falls in different rules in different states, but in most states an informal separation that is not court ordered has no real legal status and for all purposes, the couple is still legally married. A trial separation, when the couple lives apart while they decide whether or not to get a divorce, is usually not recognized by the court; but a husband and wife who are living apart cannot assume they have no further responsibility to a marriage or each other. Just living apart does not give the spouses the same rights they would enjoy in a divorce.

Simply living apart temporarily has no legally binding effect on ownership of assets and debts or any other legal aspect of the marriage. When a couple separates without formal recognition of the court, the separation can be considered a permanent separation in some jurisdictions that now require a period of living apart before the spouses file for an uncontested divorce. In those cases, living in separate residences for a long period of continuous time without any effort made toward reconciliation demonstrates the intent to end the marriage. In most cases the property and debts that are created when a couple is living apart are the responsibility of the person who accumulated or incurred it unless the court orders joint responsibility.

In a legal separation, the court determines property and support issues but does not issue a formal divorce decree. Not all jurisdictions permit legal separations. Depending on the state, a legal separation binds both spouses to terms and conditions, and it stipulates each spouse’s specific duties about childcare, visitation and support. A period of separation often allows a couple time to get their affairs in order. When they do not want to save the marriage, the legal separation period becomes a preliminary for an inevitable divorce. The absence of a divorce decree in a legal separation means that neither spouse can remarry unless a formal divorce is completed.

Grief Tips When A Marriage Ends

September 23rd, 2016

The end of a marriage is never easy, and whatever the reason for the split the breakup of a marriage turns the whole world upside down and triggers painful and unsettling emotions. The death of a marriage must be grieved, and here are tips for grieving after a divorce:

> The pain is very real. A rollercoaster of emotions — ups and downs, including anger, resentment, sadness, relief, fear, and confusion – are very normal, and these emotions can be very painful. Trying to suppress or ignore emotions only prolongs the grieving process.

> Emotions should be voiced. – Even if it is difficult to talk about feelings, it is very important to find a way to do so when grieving. Knowing that others are aware of feelings reduces the isolation that pain brings and helps healing. A journal is a good outlet for emotions.

> The goal is moving on. Expressing emotions brings a measure of freedom, but it is important not to dwell on the negative feelings or to over-analyze the situation. Getting stuck in hurtful feelings like blame, anger, and resentment robs a person of valuable energy and prevents healing.

> Tomorrow is the future. It’s hard to let these dreams go that a person brings to marriage. Grieving for a future that never happened is easier when a person envisions a time when new hopes new hopes and dreams replace lost ones.

> Know the difference between a normal reaction to a breakup and depression – Grief can be paralyzing after a breakup, but after a while, the sadness begins to lift. Day by day, and little by little, most people start moving on. Depression may warrant professional help.

When Only One Person Wants a Divorce

September 15th, 2016

When only one spouse want to end the marriage, the other spouse can make the a divorce much more difficult, and no-fault divorce, which is now the law in all the jurisdictions, goes only so far when one spouse digs in and fights the divorce.

Before 1969, in most jurisdictions, divorce entailed proving fault, but when California adopted what be came known as “no-fault divorce,” it opened the door to a much easier way to end failing marriages. Today, all the jurisdictions allow no-fault divorce. Before 1969, the spouse who wanted a divorce had to show the court a good reason for ending the marriage, according to Dr. Charlene Wear Simmons, who has written a history of divorce. In California before no-fault, courts would grant a divorce on the grounds of cruelty, adultery, insanity, abandonment, intemperance, neglect or a felony conviction.

With no-fault divorce, neither partner need prove that the other spouse did anything wrong, so neither spouse must, for example, prove adultery or other wrongdoing, which in theory reduces the hostility and anger. However, no-fault makes it much easier for one spouse walk away, even if the other remains committed to the marriage. If one partner refuses to sign the papers, then it can take much longer before the divorce is finalized.

A reluctant partner can drag pout the divorce out for a long time, but he or she cannot prevent the divorce as long as the petitioner remains committed to it. Divorce laws vary from state to state, so the details vary. In Pennsylvania, for example, courts grant no-fault divorces in cases of mutual consent or irretrievable breakdown, according to divorce lawyer Michael Greenstein. In the absence of mutual consent, the court will not accept that the marriage is irretrievably broken until the spouses have been separated for at least two years. Even then, the court does not grant the divorce without a hearing. However, if the appellant attends the hearing and states that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, then the court grants the divorce.

Some states permit a traditional fault-based divorce. For example, Pennsylvania allows for divorce on the grounds of adultery, brutality or indignities. When a partner refuses to agree to a divorce by mutual consent and the other spouse does not want to wait for two years, she could petition for a divorce on one of these fault grounds. However, she would have to provide the court with evidence to prove the accusation.

There is no way to prevent a partner from getting a divorce, if he or she is determined to do so. When one spouse wants out, it’s better to accept it and move on, than to try to delay the process.

Until Sickness Us Do Part

August 17th, 2016

Couples promise to stay together in sickness and in health, but a recent (and revised) study finds that the risk of divorce among older married couples rises when the wife – but not the husband — becomes seriously ill with heart trouble.

A previously widely reported finding that the risk of divorce increases when wives fall ill — but not when men do — is invalid, thanks to a short string of mistaken coding that negates the original conclusions, published in the March issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. The paper, “In Sickness and in Health? Physical Illness as a Risk Factor for Marital Dissolution in Later Life,” garnered coverage in many news outlets, including The Washington Post, New York magazine’s The Science of Us blog, The Huffington Post, and the UK’s Daily Mail . However, an error in a line of the coding that analyzed the data means the conclusions in the paper — and all the news stories about those conclusions — are “more nuanced,” according to first author Amelia Karraker, an assistant professor at Iowa State University and a National Institute on Aging Postdoctoral Fellow at the ISR Population Studies Center.

The miscoding error happened because people who left the study were actually miscoded as getting divorced. Using the corrected code, Karraker and her co-author, Kenzie Latham of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, did the analysis again, and found the results stand only when wives develop heart problems, not other illnesses. “What we find in the corrected analysis is we still see evidence that when wives become sick marriages are at an elevated risk of divorce, whereas we don’t see any relationship between divorce and husbands’ illness. We see this in a very specific case, which is in the onset of heart problems. So basically it’s a more nuanced finding. The finding is not quite as strong,” said Karraker.

“Married women diagnosed with a serious health condition may find themselves struggling with the impact of their disease while also experiencing the stress of divorce,” says Karraker, a researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR).

For the study, she and Latham analyzed 20 years of data on 2,717 marriages from the Health and Retirement Study, conducted by ISR since 1992. At the time of the first interview, at least one of the partners was over the age of 50.

The researchers examined how the onset of four serious physical illnesses – cancer, heart problems, lung disease and stroke – affected marriages.

They found that overall 31 percent of the marriages ended in divorce over the period studied. The incidence of new chronic illness onset increased over time as well, with more husbands than wives developing serious health problems.
“We found that women are doubly vulnerable to marital dissolution in the face of illness,” says Karraker. “They are more likely to be widowed, and if they are the ones who become ill, they are more likely to get divorced.”

While the study did not assess why divorce is more likely when wives but not husbands become seriously ill, Karraker offers a few possible reasons.

“Gender norms and social expectations about care giving may make it more difficult for men to provide care to ill spouses,” Karraker speculates. “And because of the imbalance in marriage markets especially in older ages, divorced men have more choices among prospective partners than divorced women.
The study did not examine why a woman’s illness was more likely than a man’s to lead to divorce, but Karraker suggested that because women tend to be caregivers, it can cause extra strain when a man has to assume the role. By contrast, a study found a couple was no more likely to divorce if a husband got sick.

In fact, care giving can be such a strain that it can lead to illness or even death for the caregiver, Karraker said.

Dr. Jacob Ham, a clinical psychologist and Director of Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s HEARTS (Healing Emotions and Achieving Resilience to Traumatic Stress) Program, calls illness a “huge threat” to a person’s sense of attachment.

“Any time we feel threatened with trauma or loss, the desire to seek comfort and security from someone we love gets triggered. If the threat means you’re going to lose the person you turn to for that, it’s devastating,” Ham said.

“We did not have information on who initiated divorce in this study. But it’s important to keep in mind that in most cases, it’s women who do so. So it could be that when women become ill and their husbands are not doing a very good job caring for them, they would rather that he just go and they rely on friends and family who will take care of them.”

Increasing concern about healthcare costs for the aging population means policymakers should be aware of the relationship between disease and risk of divorce, Karraker believes. “Offering support services to spousal caregivers may reduce marital strain and prevent divorce at older ages,” she says. “But it’s also important to recognize that the impetus for divorce may be health-related and that sick ex-wives may need additional care and services to prevent worsening health and increased health expenditures.”

Dating While Divorcing

July 20th, 2016

Many divorcing people – particular those who are also parents — wonder whether they can or should date new people while the divorce is pending.

Legally, “dating,” means one-on-one social contact with another person. There is no distinction between platonic contacts and ones that are romantic or sexual, although from a practical standpoint, the romantic/sexual relationships are the ones that draw scrutiny and cause complications. Dating has the potential to increase both the cost and the stress of the divorce trial. Put simply, even if separated, married people are not supposed to date. Judges rarely punish someone who begins dating – sexually or otherwise – once they have physically separated from their spouse.

The smart money – the lawyers who handle divorce actions – say dating during a divorce should be avoided because the benefits rarely justify the liabilities on someone personally or on his or her legal position.

When someone ends a marriage, for many months thereafter, he or she goes through tremendous emotional, mental and psychological upheaval. Divorce is one of life’s most stressful and painful experiences. Regardless of whether someone is the petitioner or the respondent – the person who wants to end the action or the person who replies — the shocks and aftershocks can devastate a person’s sense of well-being. This is true even the person initiates a necessary divorce to end a bad marriage. A person’s world view and perspective on life and human relationships may change every few weeks. This is no time to make major life decisions, and no time to begin a new long-term relationship. Rebound relationships during this time almost always wind up in a dead end. There is no reason to get into another situation that promises disappointment and despair.

Dating during the divorce can become a minefield when the angry wife or husband – who is still the legal spouse – blows up. A case that might otherwise have been settled easily, amicably and inexpensively can transform into a difficult, acrimonious and very expensive battle when a spouse starts dating. Yes, he or she may have the right to date, but he or she also must accept the significant consequences of that decision.

The presence of someone new, particularly when paraded in front of the spouse and/or children, can enrage the soon-to-be former partner, and also create the suspicion that the relationship began as an affair before the separation. The innocent new friend can be deposed, that is, asked questions under oath and recorded by a stenographer and subpoenaed to testify to determine exactly when the relationship began, whether it is sexual, whether any marital property has been transferred to the new friend, such as by gift, how much money was spent on dating this person, and whether the spouse has said anything that could be used against him or her at trial. Even if everything is on the up-and-up, the result is a lot of unnecessary aggravation and cost.

Dating a new person may cause the lawful spouse to become irrational and filled with a desire for revenge. Dating becomes evidence the new friend is the cause of the divorce even if it is not true and even if the relationship did not begin until after the spouses separated. Fair or unfair, anger makes the case much more difficult to settle. An angry spouse may openly or subtly work to alienate the children, relatives and friends.

Dating during a divorce can alienate children who feel abandoned and who sympathize with the other parent. Young children tend not to accept a new friend even though they might have willingly embraced that person later, after the divorce.

The Legal Impact

Dating during divorce can have an legal impact on the terms and conditions of the marital settlement because the spouses and children can become inflamed and alienated, which can influence judges who often make decisions influenced, however subtly, by the received impressions that the parties make.

Custody and visitation. A spouse may become less likely to settle custody and visitation issues on a reasonable and rational basis. Children may be less likely to want to be the custody of the dating parent and will be less likely to want to spend time with him or her. Frequently, children refuse to spend time with a person if his or her friend is going to be there for visitation. The parent-child relationship can breakdown when children become so alienated.

Judges making custody and parenting time determinations are not impressed with a person who dates during a divorce because dating shows a callousness and a lack of empathy. Dating can be considered poor role modeling for children. Dating during the divorce can tip the scale in favor of the other parent in a custody fight and result in less parenting time than otherwise would have been awarded. Cohabitation during a divorce often is a disastrous action for all of the reasons just mentioned.

Child support and spousal support. Dating does not normally have an effect on an award of child or spousal support; however, cohabitation almost certainly has an adversely impact on support.

The decision to live with someone while a spousal support case is pending could cost a great deal over the duration of the award. That can work both ways. 
The person likely to receive a spousal support award, living with a friend and sharing expenses may suggest to the court that he or she does not need as much spousal support.

In the area of child support awards, when a person lives with someone else and shares expenses, the court can use that fact (and often does) as a basis to set the child support obligation higher (when the obligor is living with someone) or lower (when the obligee is living with someone). The change is called a “deviation” from the presumed level of support according to the state guidelines. The court does not actually add into the support calculation the income of the parent and the live-in friend. The court considers that an obligor with a live-in friend has more money available to pay support and an obligee with a live-in friend does not need as much support.

When children are involved, judges are not necessarily impressed with someone who begins dating shortly after the parties separated. Judges try to be fair, but a judge’s gut reaction towards you could possibly sway him or her in making his final decision about the level or duration of support or about property division issues.

Property Division. During the course of a divorce, the judge is required to make many decisions about many different topics. The slightest nuances can influence the judge’s decision. A judge may never explain his decision, but it is in a party’s best interest to do everything possible to make sure the judge looks favorably on a person, and dating during a divorce harms a party’s position with the judge.

Cohabitation can be a factor in the property division. Living with someone and sharing expenses places someone in a better financial position than a person living along and paying all expenses. A judge may conclude that, as a result of improved financial circumstances, certain property division issues should be resolved in favor of the other spouse. A judge might conclude that a party can afford to pay more money in a property division judgment because of improved financial circumstances. Or a judge might conclude the other spouse should pay less money as property division because the live-in partner improves circumstances.

A person should not even consider dating until he or she has physically separated, even both spouses agree that the marriage is over because, depending on the laws of the jurisdiction, dating can be cited as a reason the marriage failed and it can lead a judge to award more of the marital assets to your spouse. Once separated, party should date “with the utmost propriety, particularly around … children.” Needless to say, care should be taken to avoid becoming pregnant or impregnating someone before the divorce is final. A pregnancy will prolong the case until the baby is born so that the court can verify paternity and determine custody and support requirements.

Women are Happier After Divorce

May 13th, 2016

A study by Kingston University in the United Kingdom meant to analyze the negative impact of trauma on men and women concludes that women are happier after a divorce than men.

In the study researchers surveyed 10,000 people in the U.K. between the ages of sixteen and sixty. In the survey 10,000 participants between 16 and 90 rated their happiness before and after their divorce. Over a 20- year period, researchers found that women were happier and more satisfied with their lives after divorce. “In the study we took into account the fact that divorce can sometimes have a negative financial impact on women, but despite that it still makes them much happier than men,” said Professor Yannis Georgellis, Director of the Center for Research in Employment, Skills and Society (CRESS) at Kingston Business School.

Some suggest that women are happier because more women file for divorce than men, and that they are getting what they want. However, others suggest there are many reasons women file for a divorce that have nothing to do with falling out of love or no longer being happy.

A woman may file for divorce because she has been abandoned and left with no recourse but divorce to pursue child support via the family court system.

In addition, other reasons come into play. A husband’s midlife crisis may endanger her financial and emotional security when he behaves in a destructive manner to her and her future welfare. An abusive husband may leave her no recourse other than to file for a divorce and put distance between herself and the abuser. A husband’s extra-marital affair may leave her responsible for financial maintenance of the home and family.

The reason for the divorce is not a factor in how well a woman heals and moves on with her life once she is divorced.

Women are happier after divorce because they are more likely than men to seek help for the emotional trauma caused by divorced for a therapist.

They are more likely than men to surround themselves with a positive support system such as, friends and family.

Women cope better than men. Men look outward when seeking comfort from emotional pain; women look inward. They inventory of the role they played in the demise of the marriage and work at getting their emotional stable and letting go of the past so they can focus on the future.

Women are less likely to turn to alcohol, drugs, new relationships and casual sex to distract them from the trauma of divorce.
Women are more likely to seek out new experiences after divorce, experiences that enrich them and give them hope.

Women are more likely to prioritize their needs. They make an effort into staying physically healthy during the trauma of divorce. They focus on eating properly and working out in an effort to stave off illness and depression.

Divorce can be a hard choice to make but once it is made a woman has choices she can make. She can give into the trauma of the divorce or rebuild her life and get on with the business of living. Most choose to get on with the business of living. Women are no stronger emotionally than men. They do however use different coping skills than men when dealing with emotional trauma and, based on the study, those skills make it possible for women to move on and be happier than men after divorce.

Millennial Marriages

April 25th, 2016

According to research, nearly 70 percent of the miillenial generation wants to be married but cannot afford it.

Members of the miillenial generation — Americans born after 1980 and before 2000 — are much less likely to be married by age 32 compared to previous generations. Research shows that only 26 percent of Millennial are married by 32, compared to 36 percent for Gen X-ers, 48% of Baby Boomers and 60 percent of the members of the Silent Generation at the same age.

The marriage patterns of the millenial generation have a impact on American life because this giant cohort, which is estimated to be at least 80 million Americans, — is even larger than the Baby Boom generation, which has 75 million members.

Interestingly, researchers estimate that 69 percent of the unmarried millennial would like to be married but feel that they are lacking the financial foundation to make it a possibility.

Millennials as a cohort are more educated than previous generations: 34 percent of those 25 to 32 years old hold at least a bachelors degree, compared to 25percent for Gen X and 24 percent of Baby Boomers at the same age.

Parental Autism

April 12th, 2016

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects married adults and can remain undiagnosed. ASD can contribute to significant and unexplained challenges in all spheres to family life, particularly when a family is stressed by a divorce.

Healthcare professionals, educators and lawyers who cannot identify ASD and its impact on families in crisis risk aggravating the problems of the domestic situation. In particular, coparenting with a former spouse who has ASD challenges the most cooperative of former spouses.

The majority of married adults with ASD remained undiagnosed.

ASD creates social impairment and communication difficulties. 
Many people with ASD find social interactions difficult. The severity of ASD varies greatly depending on the degree to which social communication and repetitive patterns of behavior affect the individual. The mutual give-and-take nature of typical communication and interaction is often particularly difficult. People with ASD may have very different verbal abilities ranging from no speech at all to speech that is fluent, but awkward and inappropriate. The term “spectrum” refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability in functioning that can occur in people with ASD. Some children and adults with ASD are fully able to perform all activities of daily living while others require substantial support to perform basic activities.

Autism spectrum disorders are lifelong, according to Teresa J. Foden of the Autism Interactive Network. The core disabilities of ASD — communication and social deficits and repetitive behaviors and interests — can improve over the course of childhood and adolescence. In fact, higher-functioning ASD is sometimes deemed more a different way of approaching the world than a disability. Although researchers caution that the symptoms rarely subside sufficiently to withdraw adult support services, there is reason to hope for some improvement in day-to-day life.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) includes a group of complex neurodevelopment disorders characterized by repetitive and characteristic patterns of behavior and difficulties with social communication and interaction. The symptoms are present from early childhood and affect daily functioning.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders includes Asperger syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and pervasive developmental disorders not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) as part of ASD rather than as separate disorders. A diagnosis of ASD includes an assessment of intellectual disability and language impairment.

ASD occurs in every racial and ethnic group, and across all socioeconomic levels. However, boys are significantly more likely to develop ASD than girls. The latest analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 68 children has ASD.

Disrupted Parent-Child Relationships

March 22nd, 2016

Early intervention in high conflict and disrupted parent-child relationships can head off the extreme risks of maladjusted children. Such intervention, experts agree, can prevent much of the damage. Delay compounds both the cost and the complications as we as reducing the chance of success.

Too often, however, children and parents caught in the vortex of conflict and disrupted relations, do not receive the specialized intervention they need. The parent-child relationship is fractured, exchanges between parent and child is disrupted. Often the child exhibits entrenched dysfunctional behavior.

In intervening in these situations, experts suggest an emphasis on community-based interventions, including recreational, educational, therapeutic and judicial management.