"Just as relationships continue to become more complex in how they form and grow, so do their ends and how they dissolve."
As the marital discord begins to become too much and the discussion of divorce becomes louder and louder as a possibility in your near future, you tend to begin to think about those that you know who have gone through the divorce experience.
You hear about them only seeing their children on certain days and for certain holidays, and you hear about the financial struggles that those paying alimony and child support can go through, as their standard of living is lowered. You hear about the process to financially recover and how that could take years to accomplish.
Sometimes, you even hear about the mental and emotional aspects of the process. You hear about the mental health conditions that can develop for men and women going through the divorce experience and what affects a parental divorce may have on children. You hear about all of the potentially dangerous and harmful consequences of the process and how long the process to mentally and emotionally recover can take, if it occurs at all.
It can make one wonder if the divorce experience could change.
It is not like the experience of getting a divorce has always been the way that it is. We, as a society, are a long way off from King Henry VIII beheading St. Thomas More, because the church would not grant him an annulment and would not endorse his remarriage. The act of divorcing one’s spouse has evolved in the social, religious, and legal contexts, as conversations regarding what is considered to be a functional and sustainable marriage, on an emotional level, continue to grow.
No longer are the limits of why individuals divorce so black and white. Just as relationships continue to become more complex in how they form and grow, so do their ends and how they dissolve. Proving fault in a divorce is less of an issue than it previously was in most states, creating a divorce experience less about having to come up with a reason and possibly perjure one’s self, in an effort to end their marriage, but rather, sorting through the ins and outs of the marriage and determining how to divide the assets fairly.
While the asset division is not always fair in the present by any stretch of the imagination, it is much more equitable than previous incarnations of the concept. According to the Fordham Law Review, until the enactment of equitable distribution statutes, the departure from the historic distinction between property division and alimony in separate property states occurred gradually.
In the earlier days of divorce provisions in separate property states, some of the jurisdictions authorized the division of property to produce an award of alimony. The way it worked was the separate property states recognized that property division may accomplish the goal of alimony by supporting the spouse in need of financial help. Some of the enacted action was dependent on the state laws. Other separate property states created common law principles that used an award of property to support the spouse in need of financial help. This helped ease that spouse’s burden that the lack of adequate assets awarded in the property division created.
For spouses facing the prospect of losing half or more than half of their assets, this may not ease their conscious, knowing that it is not as bad as it once was. However, given that the institution still is receiving attention from lawmakers in the way they wish to tweak it and make the process a little less challenging gives hope that maybe one day it could be better on one’s finances.
The nature of what divorce does to one’s finances is not the only form of uncertainty in one’s future that has changed over time. The custody situation has evolved since the days of Tender Years Doctrine, which has shaped how custody has been determined in the modern court system for years. For many years, the assumption was that the mother would always retain custody of the children, due to the perception of her being the more loving and nurturing parent.
These outdated perceptions still are a battle being fought in family courts, but more and more often, family courts are willing to look at cases based on their own merits, rather than the assumptions of what should and should not occur, in regards to which parent receives primary custody of the children.
While it still is not a perfect situation by any stretch of the imagination, professionals and child-related experts are being employed, in order to ensure a fairer decision made in the best interests of the child.
While the mental and emotional aspect of how divorce affects men and women is in a constant state of being under a microscope, it is important to remember that due to the progress made in information and technology, we now have the means of being more aware of the latest studies and findings. This gives divorcing individuals more access to information that could drastically improve their cases and benefit their families in the long term.
With many resources at the disposal of those divorcing, in terms of therapy, support groups, and counseling, the opportunities to improve one’s mental and emotional health, as well as the mental and emotional health of children of divorce, are present.
Time also acts a healer, and its impact on the divorce experience is difficult to quantify. It is almost entirely dependent on the personalities of the individuals and how amicable the dissolution of their relationship is. The differences in whether or not time helps the healing process, as well as how long it could conceivably take for the individual, also is part of the evolution we, as a society, have seen in the concept of divorce.
Can it change?
With every passing generation, adjustments are made to countless institutions and will continue to be made for years to come. With the improvements in technology and information, the way we think about things will always change and grow with each passing decade. Considering very few institutions stand pat over the course of history, it’s not likely divorce will always be the same.
Given that many of the idiosyncrasies in divorce in the United States are dependent on the states that they are in, uniform divorce regulations on a national level are a possibility, but even if they are not considered, there still are improvements and changes to be made in how assets are divided and how custody is decided. The process is not perfect, and there will consistently be changes considered to quell the fears and uncertainty attached to life after divorce.