In the first of a series of articles rb’s Family Law team look at the impact of divorce upon children, a family’s finances and in this article the individuals concerned.
One of the biggest problems of a relationship breakdown is who to talk to.
Frequently the parties rely upon friends or associates who have been through a relationship breakdown and this can often be one of the most misleading sources.
Research shows that groups of friends who have couples going through relationship breakdown are often affected by this.
Furthermore single sex groups often have a particular “spin” on the consequences or in some cases what they would like others to perceive as the “benefits” of their own separation.
The reality is far more complex. It is also clear that considerable thought should be given before taking this significant step, as the impact continues far longer than people often realise.
One thing that the research does show is that stable relationships are beneficial.
Whatever the short term benefits of leaving a relationship that isn’t perceived as working, the parties tend to experience social isolation and irregular contact with their children.
Although a separation may be seen as the panacea to all of the relationships problems, after the initial parting, loneliness and unhappiness can often follow. In the “sober light of morning” parties often indicate that they remain deeply attached to their partners even when the legal ties have been broken.
Notwithstanding the above, some people are better able to handle separation and divorce than others.
Those that emerge happier are those who come from high conflict or even violent relationships. Furthermore those that embrace the significant changes in their lives and work on maintaining old friendships or establishing new ones fair much better.
Although parties going through divorce may indicate that they are happier, that may be because of other factors such as their financial position.
That financial position will dictate the lifestyle that they have hereafter and research has found that people with greater personal resources, including a higher income or higher level of education cope so much better.
This makes sense when one considers that two parties to a marriage/relationship are shouldering the burden of family life together and upon breakdown those responsibilities can be doubled.
Furthermore modest resources which are divided between two people often leave lower income families with insufficient to meet even their most basic needs.
It therefore appears that divorce, like marriage or relationships does depend upon each individual family and their own particular circumstances.
However, when people receive informal advice they often don’t factor in the subtle differences in situations between the person giving the advice and the person receiving it. In blunt terms, a lady who has a choice of homes to live in after divorce is going to find life so much easier than one who is only entitled to 50% of the proceeds of sale from a “two up two down”.
Therefore, there is a very real danger that in a social setting an individual contemplating separation will receive all the wrong advice.
Despite what anyone tells you, when you separate you do not go back to leading the carefree easy life of a twenty-one year old! It is not an endless party because everyone else has moved on and social isolation often follows.
Day to day to activities of home, work and childcare are more difficult to carry out alone. Support networks change, sometimes because it is perceived that you will be requiring more from the network than you can possibly contribute yourself.
Furthermore divorced individuals often find they have less in common with their married friends and some have reported that they are even a threat to the stability of their married friends’ relationships.
In relationships where there are children there have been great changes in recent years. For example the proportion of single fathers raising their own children has tripled in a generation.
Whilst mothers were able to manage a work/life balance in a relationship they find it difficult after separation to be successful at home and work without even considering the prospect of a social life.
One fact that is startling and unforeseen is the degree of dependency upon ex-partners or ex-spouses. Many concede privately that they remain emotionally dependent upon the other even when a divorce or separation is concluded.
Research is showing that whilst a Court can divide up property and other responsibilities such as child care, it cannot decree an emotional clean break.
Few of these factors are easy to convey in a social setting. However it is better that they are properly considered before making a final decision, rather than having to reflect upon the consequences in solitude.
Nigel C Winter is a partner in the Family Department of Rawlison Butler Solicitors, based in the South East of England. He has been practicing family law for over two decades, is a collaborative lawyer and a regular contributor to a wide variety of publications on Divorce and Family Law.
He has been practicing family law for over 2 decades, is a Collaborative lawyer and a regular contributor to a wide variety of publications on divorce and family law.
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