There are no winners in a divorce. The degree and extent of loss that each divorced spouse suffers depend on many factors. But overall the loss can be classified into four categories:
- Financial loss
- Children-related loss
- Health-related loss
- Social loss
In a divorce, the assets that both spouses accumulated together get divided, the time, energy, and love they invested in the marriage is wasted, and their children’s lives are turned upside down. There are only losers in a divorce, and the degree and the extent of loss each party suffers depends on the prevailing circumstances.
Though men can feel financially stressed after the divorce because they may have to pay alimony, child support, move out to another home, and generally spend more every month, many studies suggest that the economic impact of divorce adversely impacts women more than men.
After divorce, a woman’s household income can decline drastically, especially if she was a homemaker without an income source during the marriage. A study conducted in the U.S. suggests that post-divorce,women experience a 27% decline in their standard of living compared to a 10% decline experienced by men.
Researchers believe that after divorce women with child custody can face hurdles like restricted income-earning capacities or opportunities, inadequate child support in an economy plagued by high inflation, and loss of a key source of income.
But this isn’t one-sided. Men tend to suffer more depression, alcoholism, drug abuse, loneliness, and suicide after divorce, which often adversely impacts their health, income, and net worth.
So, from the economic standpoint, women who have child custody or those who have been homemakers during the marriage can suffer the most, but really, both men and women tend to suffer just in slightly different economic ways.
Then there is another situation too – of a spouse who after marriage converted his/her separate property into community property. After divorce, this property will normally be shared 50/50 between both spouses. So, the spouse who originally was the sole owner of the property ends up getting just a 50% share in his/her originally-owned property. That is a substantial loss for this spouse.
After divorce, the spouses and the children have to adjust to a new reality. Spouses are adults and can somehow reconcile their lives with the new normal. It is the children who suffer the most and some can even lose trust in their parent(s). The sight of the child suffering or seeing him lose trust in the father and/or mother can be painful for any parent.
Studies by social scientists have confirmed the obvious fact that the quality of the parent–child relationship is directly linked to the time spent by the child with both the parents during the marriage and after divorce. When one parent did not care, the relationship was the poorest. When both parents were equally involved in bringing up the child, the relationship was the strongest. Also, after divorce, an equal number of overnight stays with the father strengthened his bond with the child without deteriorating the child’s relationship with the mother.
The studies show negative impacts from divorce independent of time with each parent, but both parents being involved can ameliorate negative effects.
Another study has discovered that a divorced father is likely to be less nurturing than the mother, and that he may become detached from his young children if he does not get legal or physical custody.
Spouses generally are likely to invest a lot of energy and passion in holding the marriage together for as long as they can, but may opt for divorce when they realize that their efforts have gone in vain, for whatever reason. According to some researchers, more women than men are likely to petition for divorce.
These researchers have discovered that after divorce, women are generally healthier than divorced men. They add that a man’s health benefits a lot from marriage, and divorce decreases his health quotient and life satisfaction levels, and increases his risk of mortality. That is because in most marriages it is the woman who provides nutritious and healthy food to the family. After divorce, the man may have to depend on his, possibly, not-as-well-developed, cooking skills or eat more often in a restaurant. Turning to alcohol, smoking, eating junk food, or leading a sedentary lifestyle, can only make matters worse.
Also, a spouse’s decision to divorce can surprise or shock the other spouse, who may experience a lot of psychological distress. The spouse who planned the divorce is not likely to feel the shock and awe as the spouse who is at the receiving end.
The noncustodial parent may suffer from loneliness if he/she finds the parent-time inadequate. Then, employed parents can find that meeting the child according to the visitation schedule can pose a challenge. A custodial parent can find it difficult to raise a child, or find childcare challenging while doing everything all alone. Plus, the custodial parent may not get enough free time to socialize or find a new partner, leading to possible psychological issues.
Though divorce does not carry the same stigma that it did decades ago, one cannot stop wagging tongues that are out to blacken a parent’s name in the community. Divorce can also disrupt an established network of friends and relatives that has been built and nurtured over many years.
So, to sum up, both spouses lose in a divorce. The separation can impact them financially, socially, psychologically, as well as on health grounds. The degree of hurt depends on each spouse’s mental makeup, but there is no escaping the fact that there are no winners in a divorce.