According to Lisa Belkin, author of “Who wins in a divorce, mom or dad” New York Times, February 3, 2009, there may very well be no way to really quantify the real price/cost of a divorce. In the article, she looks at matrimonial and family law in various jurisdictions including Britain, Canada, Massachusetts and makes a few observations.
For one thing, it is clear that neither gender feels that the court is sufficiently sensitive to their respective post-divorce realities. Men in Massachusetts, for example are up in arms over the January 1, 2009 revision of Massachusetts law that raises the amount of child support that the non-custodial parent pays.
In Britain, she discusses a study that shows that the standard of living falls for women after a divorce (especially if they have young children), but rises for men who are similarly situated.
But it is more than just the money. Belkin also discusses the fact that in Canada, “badmouthing” the other parent can cause you to lose custody. This is not unlike the situation here in New York. If a parent cannot encourage a healthy relationship between the children and the other parent, that may be a basis to change custody, as parental alienation is not allowed in New York State. In New York, one can also lose custody for making false allegations of child abuse – particularly sexual abuse.
At first blush, most people think that children are a real casualty of divorce. But I think the price is much higher than just the kids. For example, we did a post the other day called “Divorced Dads and the Disenfranchised Father syndrome” which you can read here: http://www.divorcesaloon.com/divorced-dads-and-the-disenfranchised-father-syndrome and we talk about how heavy the price and toll is for fathers.
But mothers too, suffer and labor under the fall out and implosion of their marriages and family structure. They labor financially, obviously. It is an open secret that most women do not make as much as men, and that after a divorce, their standard of living goes back to that of a “single woman” or sometimes lower if they have children, or if they have trouble re-entering the work force due to atrophied skills.
But there is the emotional toll as well. For one thing, many moms experience a high degree of guilt for a number of reasons. One is, they feel they are not up to par to take care of the children all alone financially and they feel bad that having to go back to work has turned their children into “latch key” kids – or they may not want custody at all; they may feel guilty about leaving the marriage to begin with; they may feel guilty or scared that they will not find another partner, or that they may have made a mistake by expecting a “perfect husband” who does not exist; some may compare themselves to their own mothers who have sustained long term marriages and feel guilty about the fact that their marriages failed; they may have religious guilt about the divorce; they may even think divorce is a “sin.” We have certainly touched on all those issues which you can read by clicking here: http://www.divorcesaloon.com/index.php?s=divorce+guilt
So, who wins with divorce? What is the real price of the privilege of ending a marriage? I, for one, do not think that there is any easy answer to this question. But if I had to sum up the price in two words, I would say that in many instances, divorce is a “net loss” for all parties concerned.
UPDATE: Check out this Reuters article