Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Divorce Decisions: Information and Roles for the Family and Consumer Scientist

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Divorce Decisions: Information and Roles for the Family and Consumer Scientist

Article excerpt

Abstract: Effective family resource management at each stage of the divorce process will help to prevent future crises for divorcing individuals and their families. In this article, management issues are explored at each stage: (1) contemplating the transition from married to single life, (2) the legal act of divorce, and (3) adjustment following divorce. Resource management suggestions are offered for family and consumer scientists to assist the divorcing couple.

Family and consumer scientists can assist people with effective resource management during various types of crises. One of the most common crises is divorce. However, seldom are people prepared for the trauma of divorce. Teachers may not include divorce management in their classes, and family and consumer sciences textbooks tend to ignore or pass lightly over this topic. The lessons of divorce are often the unwanted experience of "hands-on learning."

In this article, divorce is viewed as a process that involves three stages. It is important to understand the main issues of each stage and how resources can be managed to prevent future crises.

Stage One: Contemplating the Transition to Single Life Planning for divorce takes time and knowledge, perhaps more than planning for marriage. "Look before you leap" into divorce may be just as important advice for couples contemplating divorce as it was when they contemplated their marriage.

There are many issues to be considered at this stage; however, one of the most crucial to adjustment after the divorce is the fair and equitable division of resources. Rowe (1991, p. 15) argues that treating men and women equal makes sense when equity "exists outside the courtroom." She suggests factors contributing to negative effect after divorce are "property settlements that fail to take earning capacities into account, inadequate and poorly enforced child and spousal support, unequal employment opportunities, wage discrimination, and diminishing public assistance programs."

Family Resource Management

Causes of marital dissolution include economic and noneconomic factors (Ferber & Sander, 1989). The most frequent cause of divorce of couples under the age of 30 pertains to conflict over division of labor, expectations of housekeeping, household tasks, consumption problems, use of money, methods of solving problems or making decisions, rituals, and role expectations, including priorities (Blood & Blood, 1973; Lofas, 1989). Therefore, the breakdown of communication about family resource management is a primary cause of family breakups.

Application of resource management principles at this stage can help promote sound decisions that reduce the risk of further crises. For example, specific topics that the family and consumer scientist can help the couple explore include goal setting, planning and evaluating resource use, generating alternatives, clarifying values, cost/benefit analysis, consumer expenditures, purchase of goods and services, money and time costs of raising children, money and nonmoney contributions, methods of household organization, and communication.

Consider the Alternatives

Because a major cause of divorce is the breakdown of communication about resource management, the family scientist can provide a useful service to the couple by exploring the alternative to divorce. For example, the following list of suggestions can lead to changes in the household organizational structure and family system that could prevent the marriage break-up:

Separation for a time to better esti

mate the costs and adjustments Employment change by one or both spouses

Investment of time with spouse and family

Changes in role responsibilities in the family, including financial matters

Practice of attitude changes, such as compromise instead of win/win

More realistic expectations of marriage and spouse

Marriage counseling

Mediation

It is important for family and consumer scientists to understand the mediation process as an alternative to the adversarial court proceedings in divorce. …

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