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I touched the box leaning against the wall. Plastic covered the contents and preserved them, protecting them against dust and damage. My mind flashed back to our elegant November wedding and the till-death-do-us-part promises we had made to each other. I found myself wondering why someone could not have preserved my marriage as well as they did my marriage gown.
What You Should Know
Divorce in the United States has changed the home life of 12.2 million women-headed homes and 1.2 million men-headed homes. Since the introduction of no-fault divorce in 1970, the number of single-parent homes is up 122 percent for women and 163 percent for men. Over the same period, the number of married-couple families grew by only 20 percent.
More than half of American children are expected to spend time in a single-parent home before they reach age eighteen. A Gallup survey found the major reasons for these large numbers are incompatibility (52 percent); drug or alcohol problems (16 percent); disputes about money, family, or children (10 percent); and physical abuse (5 percent).2
Questions You Ask
My divorce will be final next week. Can I expect things to really be that final?
Divorces are never final when children are involved. The problems do not necessarily disappear once the marriage is dissolved. Many times the alcoholism or abuse is transferred to a different setting in which one parent takes primary charge of the children. How ongoing the issues are depends on the number of changes that take place, how old your children are, whether either of you remarries, and the amount of conflict that persists between you.
I can't afford an attorney, but my husband and I can't work anything out together. What are our alternatives?
Mediators can help you find creative solutions to your problems. Impartial men and women are appointed to hear your case and decide on things such as who will be responsible for health insurance, how college expenses will be paid, and what information is shared. Your county courthouse can tell you how to contact a mediator.
Never give up, however, trying to improve your relationship with your ex. You and your children will benefit by these attempts.
I'm new to divorce. What is the main problem I'll have to deal with?
Probably the most important psychological challenge for former partners involves redefining power and intimacy boundaries. For many families, visitation represents the only remaining link between ex-spouses. That is why it often becomes a major battleground. But it also can provide an ideal place for redefining these needed boundaries and for sorting out the continuing roles as parents from the past roles as spouses.
The People Involved
As a dad, how can I minimize the impact of divorce on my children?
Stay involved and keep your responses toward your ex-wife under control.
When you are a part of your children's lives, they will likely have fewer psychological problems. When custodial mothers and noncustodial fathers get along better, the children usually exhibit higher self-concepts and get better grades in school.
These children, especially daughters, are often more popular with their peers. This may be because the children learn how to get along well with others from parents who are working hard to get along with each other.
If you remain involved with your children and get along decently with your ex-wife, it tells the children that they are still loved, will not be abandoned, and will be okay. Furthermore, you will teach your children discipline, respect, and how to remain in con-trol of their lives and the choices they make.
I am a single mom. Things seem to be going pretty well for us except in the area of money. Can you help?
Leslie N. Richards and Cynthia J. Schmiege conducted a study in which sixty mothers and eleven fathers participated in a telephone interview about their single-parenting experiences. Four issues were targeted: problems, strengths, ease of pulling parenting off, and the differences between men- and women-headed households. They found:
• Mothers reported problems with money, 79 percent; role/task overload, 58 percent; social life, 30 percent; problems with ex-spouse, 10 percent; and other, 30 percent.
• Fathers reported problems with money, 19 percent; role/task overload, 38 percent; social life, 18 percent; problems with ex-spouse, 38 percent; and other, 28 percent.
In this study, money appeared to be the most pervasive problem for single mothers. Fathers reported more problems with ex-spouses, including the desire of an ex-spouse for more child support, manipulation of the children, improper treatment of the children as a means of revenge, rejection of children in favor of a new significant other, and denial of visitation by the ex-spouse who was awarded custody.
Money could represent the biggest problem for you while your ex-husband sees problems in other areas. Keep the lines of communication open and work through issues as they arise. Meanwhile, budgeting, buying within your means, cutting out non-essentials--these are all things you will need to continue to do. It's not fair but it's doable. And you can find creative ways of celebrating life with your family in spite of your meager financial means.