Academic journal article Family Relations

A Note from the Guest Editor

Academic journal article Family Relations

A Note from the Guest Editor

Article excerpt

The idea for this special issue emerged during a meeting at the annual NCFR conference, the purpose of which I have long forgotten. In the meeting someone commented that they still used the 2003 special FR issue on divorce that Kay Pasley pulled together as Family Relations editor and that it would be wonderful to have an updated version of this. This idea was appealing to me because I teach a course titled The Process of Divorce, and I am always looking for current and cutting-edge resources. Shortly after this meeting, Ron Sabatelli took over as the FR editor and asked me if I would guest edit an issue on divorce but broaden it to include diverse romantic relationships. At first I was a bit reluctant to expand the topic, but the need for a wider focus became quite evident to me when I talked with a charming young colleague who had journeyed to British Columbia to marry her same-sex partner, only to find out when they later split that legally divorcing in British Columbia was much more difficult than was legally marrying. Neither she nor her partner could afford to establish residency in Canada, which means that they are not able to legally remarry in the United States should they, in the future, Uve in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage. Fortunately, they do not have children and they parted amicably, so she is currently somewhat bemused by her predicament. This may change, however, if in the future legal marriage for same-sex couples becomes a nationally recognized option for her in the United States. She and her former partner have continued to explore their options. While this special issue was being pulled together, New York State passed legislation making same-sex marriage legal, but there is a 90-day residential waiting period to divorce. For many couples living in New York State this long while waiting to divorce is simply not feasible. It is clear, therefore, that making same-sex marriage legal is only one step in the process of granting samesex couples rights that are equivalent to those of heterosexual married couples.

Shortly after my conversation with my younger colleague, I joined a University of Missouri Global Scholars group on a 10-day visit to Belgium to meet with Belgian scholars who shared research interests. One intriguing and serendipitous finding was that I did not meet a single Belgian scholar under the age of 45 who was married. Most, if not all, were partnered, and many had children, but they were not married. Trends in Europe tend to spread here, at least in some segments of the population, and cohabitation is a major focus of this special issue. As I later thought about these dedicated Belgian cohabiters, especially those with children, I wondered what happens when these couples break up. I still do not have a clear picture because family policy is quite different in Europe than in the United States.

What is clear from recent surveys is that how people "do" family in the United States has changed dramatically, which is followed by changing opinions about these "new families." We know very little, however, about what happens when the adults in these new families break up. Even in the relatively simple case of legal divorce (if divorce could ever be considered simple), there is tremendous disagreement regarding dissolution outcomes, at least for children. This can be seen in the article by Amato and colleagues in this issue as well as in the replies by Pryor, who mostly agrees with Amato, and Ahrons, who mostly does not agree with him. Those who agree with Amato that divorce is perhaps universally bad for children might rejoice in the lower divorce rate (in 1980, 7.9 of 1,000 persons between the ages of 15 and 64 divorced compared to 5.2 in 2008; U.S. Census Bureau, 2011), but the marriage rate has gone down as well (15.9 per 1,000 persons were married in 1980, a rate that dropped to 10.6 in 2008; U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). This means that although fewer children will likely face the legal divorce of their parents, many will still experience the dissolution of their parents' cohabitation. …

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