The Emotional Costs of Divorce
In this Blog, we cover some of the most up-to-date rulings to come out of the Canadian Family courts. Less frequently, we get to report on some upcoming legislative or policy change that affects Family law.
Sometimes, there are court decisions that “take a peek under the hood”, looking a little more closely at the mechanics, principles, or objectives of the legal system. An example is the recent ruling by Mr. Justice Pazaratz that we covered in a Blog a little while ago.
But one topic that is not often covered, is the emotional cost of divorce. Neither the legislation nor the courts themselves are poised to directly address – much less manage – the deep emotional impact that divorce can have on families and their individual members.
Naturally, the children can be the ones who suffer most, especially when parents handle their divorce poorly. Canadian and provincial Family Courts are statutorily-mandated to make rulings that keep the “best interests of the child” uppermost. But this is only a relative assessment – it does not mean the absolute and objective best interests of the child are actually being served in any particular case.
It is the children who are most likely to feel the effects of the uncertainty and disruption that their parents’ divorce inevitably brings. They must adapt to unwanted changes to family connections, living arrangements, and schedules. They are forced to accept changes in the amount of time they spend with each parent, and to endure any inherent tension or conflict that their parents may have between themselves. The many areas in which they be impacted, and possibly suffer negative emotional consequences, are too numerous to mention.
Parents who go through the Family justice system can also find themselves falling down an emotional “rabbit-hole”: There can be conflict, stress, anger, disappointment, lasting acrimony, and scary life adjustments to make. The process may involve years of litigation, only to come out of it with an undesirable outcome, and an unexpected financial toll.
From the viewpoint of the former family unit, each parent will have deep concerns over the welfare of the children. This can bring on feelings of guilt, insecurity, anger, and anxiety over the future. There will be many losses to grieve: Over the lost sense of family wholeness, cutting ties with extended family members, and seeing changes to marital/social status or friendships.
There may be sadness about leaving behind a former lifestyle, or at having future plans evaporate. There will also be many new fears – such as concerns over parental alienation, or the stress of financial pressures or instability. There might be anxiety over the unforeseeable challenges around potential romantic relationships in the future.
Even the task of dealing with pets in a divorce can wreak emotional havoc on family members – both parents and kids alike. In our previous blogs, like “After the Divorce: Who Gets to Keep ‘Jazz’ and ‘Jetta’, the Beloved Family Pets?”, we have chronicled some of rulings in which courts had to decide on pet ownership.
But for the spouse or children who must give up access to a beloved pet, the change can be traumatizing. It can exacerbate the anguish that already accompanies virtually every divorce. This is especially true for couples who have no children together, and the pet has become what some fondly call a “fur-baby” – meaning a pseudo-replacement for a child in the hearts and minds of them both.
So the bad news, is that divorce can be immensely hard on all those who are affected by it.
The good news, is that there are many government and private sources of information, advice and support. As a starting point, we have some materials on our website that could help: