It is my belief that all indivduals going through divorce do not wish to harm their children or themselves. The following description of some of the “costs” of divorce may give people pause when they need to decide how to end their marriage. Divorce is costly; an agunah situation doubly so. The following comments are a condensed form of an article I have written a short time ago.
Divorce is increasing (now estimated to be well over 50% of all marriages) and the attendant problems they often usher in are increasing as well. We need to see the implications of divorce in its clearest sense. What ripple effects are caused by the greater prevalence of divorce? What does society need to address in a time where family stability is being challenged? I will outline three areas of impact.
CHILDREN AT RISK
In recent years we have come to grips with the fact that we have children who need specialized care and educational opportunities. We call such children “at risk” because we understand that a lack of proper intervention may cause them to be lost to our people. In the field of divorce, the work of one person stands out for thorough research methods. Her name was Dr. Judith Wallerstein. Dr. Wallerstein is reputed to have interviewed more divorcing couples than any other person in history. Dr. Wallerstein was curious if divorce affected the well-being of children. Early in her career, Dr. Wallerstein presumed that lower-class children were more prone to the harmful effects of divorce than were their better-positioned peers. Ultimately, Dr. Wallerstein concluded that class was not the determinant of how children would be harmed, or not, by the divorce in the family. What she did conclude was that children whose parents had an amicable divorce were less likely to be harmed by parental divorce than were children whose parents had a bitter and rancorous divorce.
Divorce rates grow and so do the number of our children who are “at risk”. What are we doing to deal with this challenge?
It is well known that when a couple divorces, each party is highly likely to be in greater financial peril than they were previously. A study cited in “The Divorce Revolution” found that women have a 73% drop in their standard of living after divorce. What does our community do when people are not at the point of being impoverished, but they are experiencing dealing with new financial challenges they may never have experienced before?
The group of divorced individuals often become part of our marginally needy in the economic sense. What are we doing to deal with this challenge?
Divorce is considered one of life’s most traumatic events. It is difficult for the adults and it is more difficult for children. Family members affected by divorce are prone to episodes of depression, “acting out”, withdrawal, feelings of guilt, etc. Many such individuals do not recognize their symptoms or do not wish to seek professional help. The reasons might be shame, lack of esteem, feelings of hopelessness, etc. At times, a family who was once affluent, but now beset by financial woes, will not wish to seek help because they are too proud to acknowledge their need to pay reduced fee or no fee. People who have just been divorced do not always step forward to get the assistance they need in meeting their mental health challenges. For a person who has experienced good health for all of their life prior to divorce, their new status brings them shame and bewilderment. (A recent article on divorce in “The Journal of Men’s Health” serves as an illustration of this concern. The article found that divorced men are 10 times more likely than married men to seek mental health counseling.) We know these people are out there. What are we doing to deal with this challenge? Where do the answers lie?