16 May Myth Buster Monday: The majority of divorce filings are initiated by men.
The largest federally funded study on divorced fathers found that women – not their husbands – initiate two-thirds of divorces.[i] This statistic might lead you to believe that many women are in abusive relationships necessitating divorce. A 15-year study found that less than one-third of divorces occur in high-conflict (e.g., abusive, violent) marriages; most occur in low-conflict, but unhappy marriages. [ii]
Divorce places a significant and disproportionate financial strain on women and children. It is hard to think of any economic force that is as efficient as divorce in transforming women into “have-nots.” Women now bear double responsibility for breadwinning and child-rearing and many bear these burdens alone.
Data drawn from the Survey of Income and Program Participation found that 16-18 months after a couple separates, 42.5 percent of custodial mothers not yet receiving child support lived in poverty, while 35.4 percent of those receiving child support lived in poverty. Among non-custodial fathers, only 10.6 percent lived in poverty, regardless of whether or not they were or were not yet paying child support.[iii]
Current estimates are that about one-third of divorcees feel they made the right decision, another one-third are uncertain or have mixed feelings about their divorce and approximately one-third of divorcees eventually regret the decision within five years.[iv]
“I have heard too many disillusioned individuals express regrets about their belief that their ex-spouse was the problem only to discover similar problems in their second marriages or, even more surprisingly, in their new single lives…. And then there are the children, who are also the victims in a divorce. …Battles over parenting issues don’t end with divorce; they get played out even more vigorously with children as innocent by-standers or even pawns…. I have come to the conclusion that divorce is not the answer. It doesn’t necessarily solve the problems it purports to solve. Most marriages are worth saving.” [v]
[i] Sanford L. Braver and Diane O’Connell, Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myths (New York: Tarcher/Putnam, 1998): 133.
[ii] Paul Amato and Alan Booth, A Generation at Risk: Growing Up in an Era of Family Upheaval (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997): 220
[iii] Judi Bartfield, “Child Support and Postdivorce Economic Well-being of Fathers, Mothers, and Children,” Demography 37, 2 (May 2000): 203-213.
[iv] Brent Barlow, “Marriage Crossroads: Why Divorce is Often Not the Best Option,” Marriage and Families, School of Family Life, Brigham Young University, January 2003.
[v] Michele Weiner-Davis, Divorce Busting. (New York: Summit Books 1992).