Academic journal article Journal of Family Studies

Post-Divorce Wellbeing in Flanders: Facilitative Professionals and Quality of Arrangements Matter

Academic journal article Journal of Family Studies

Post-Divorce Wellbeing in Flanders: Facilitative Professionals and Quality of Arrangements Matter

Article excerpt

Abstract

Expanding on current advancement in divorce and family dispute resolution research, an integrative and process-oriented model is presented. This article explores the extent to which, and how, individual, trajectory, and arrangement factors are related to post-divorce personal wellbeing. Questionnaire data were collected from a sample of 423 individuals who divorced through mediation or litigation. A subsample of 112 respondents provided extra information on the personal qualities of divorce professionals. A series of multiple regression analysis demonstrated that: (1) gender, (2) experienced facilitative problem solving behaviors and the Rogerian personal qualities of professionals, and (3) the quality of divorce arrangements all directly relate to post-divorce wellbeing. No significant associations emerged for other individual characteristics (i.e., age, having children or not, pre-divorce conflict levels, relationship duration, initiator-status), or trajectory features (i.e., type of professional and type of legal procedure). Path analytic procedures did not show any indirect effect from problem solving behaviors or Rogerian attitudes of lawyers and mediators on post-divorce wellbeing through its effect on the quality of divorce arrangements. The implications for mediation practice are discussed.

Key words: divorce; family dispute resolution; post-divorce wellbeing; facilitative practice; divorce arrangements; mediation

INTRODUCTION

Over the past four decades, societies at large and families in particular have become more conscious about the unavoidable reality of divorce (Demo & Fine, 2010; Hetherington & Kelly, 2002). In fact, at least one out of three marriages in Australia (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], 2007), and one out of two marriages in the United States (Amato & Irving, 2006) ends up in divorce. Accordingly, legislative frameworks and empirical research are changing in an attempt to preserve post-divorce wellbeing.

The legal context

Responding to elevated divorce rates, no-fault legislation emerged in a lot of Western countries. That is, the assumption of fault during a legal divorce no longer had to reside with one of the partners, which generally materialized in the possibility to divorce with or without mutual consent (Beck & Sales, 2001). Furthermore, this no-fault divorce 'revolution' facilitated the implementation of the so called 'child's best interest' standard in deciding on post-divorce arrangements. No longer the gender of one of the parents, or their wishes, determined what the outcome of a divorce case would be. Instead divorce professionals took on an idiosyncratic and child-centered approach (Emery, 1994).

Such developments facilitated the introduction of mediation during the first decade of the present century (Casals, 2005). Mediation altered judicial codes and allowed court proceedings to be suspended in favor of a consensual agreement by couples to mediate their family disputes. According to Casals (2005), mediation is typically predicated on three key principles: (a) a confidential and privileged mediation process; (b) the presence of an independent, impartial and competent mediator; and (c) being voluntary for clients. But there are limits to the extent to which contemporary mediation and divorce laws alone can improve the quality of life by themselves.

A shift towards process-oriented divorce research

In order to assess divorce effects, research typically compares continuously married individuals with divorced individuals. Such studies have frequently observed that wellbeing decreases by the often sharp decline in financial living standards following divorce (Smock, Manning, & Sanjiv, 1999). Physical and mental health often decline too (Wood, Goesling, & Avellar, 2007), as does the quality of life due to a diminishing network of social supports and the level of intimacy (Albeck & Kaydar, 2002). …

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