DIVORCE AND CHILDREN

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CHAPTER 2 DIVORCE AND CHILDREN

We need to move from seeing children of divorce and separated parents as having an experience which is essentially different from that of other children. All children experience a number of transitions that can be difficult for them and for which they may require additional support (The Joseph Rowntree Foundation 2004).

INTRODUCTION

Personal relationships have always played a key role and continuously will play a significant role in people’s daily lives. However, the most important and valuable relationship will be that of a parent and a child; the relationship between partners will be second and the rest of the family will follow. South African Statistics indicate that in 2016 alone 25 326 marriages ended in divorce (Statistics South Africa, 2018:6-7). Relationships often do not last and a significant percentage end in divorce. It is always difficult to terminate a relationship that had the dreams of permanency, especially if children are involved. Divorce is traumatic as the emotional, financial and lifestyle changes cause impact on all involved. During divorce, society redefines families (Ahrons, 2013:6). During such a process, enormous changes will take place within the family which is restructured from a nuclear to a binuclear family. She adds that despite the changes in the family status they must still provide the same “services” for their family members: care and socialising for the children, close and personal relationships will be intact and financial needs must still be met. The researcher strongly agrees with Amato (2010:652) and Mohi (2015:49) that although divorce had become an increasing part of our daily lives, parties involved can use this potentially traumatic situation to create a constructive experience for all concerned and will even be able to focus on the potentially positive outcomes of parental divorce – especially for children. Amato (2010:659) suggests that researchers should no longer gain insight into the effects of divorce on children, but rather focus on more important questions on divorce causation. The “how” and “under what” circumstances the divorce accrued can lead to more conceptual perspectives towards the negative or positive outcome of parental divorce. Mohi (2015:50) strongly criticises the research that concluded parental divorce to be negative and harmful to children with an extensive review of the existing literature on parental divorce and early childhood development and concludes that factors such as post-divorce parent-child relationships, children’s living arrangements and parental relocation, can, if handled in the correct manner support the positive outcomes of divorce. Mohi (2015:50) explains that if children are removed from high-conflict households, it gives them an opportunity to grow and develop in a safe environment with less stress, better academic performance and a decline in behavioural and psychological problems. Finley and Schwartz (2010:514) state that most children of divorce adapt after time, although they might have difficulties in later developmental stages. Ahrons (2013:2) uses the term “good divorce” as a solution for this world-wide phenomenon. The increase in the divorce rate and the process of divorce is one of the most often mentioned major life events with multiple adjustment issues for both parents and children (Finley & Schwartz, 2010:516, Harkonen, 2013:3). These researchers (Amato, 2010:660; Finley &Schwartz, 2010:516; Harkonen, 2013:3; Mohi, 2015:61) find that parental divorce causes major stress and upheaval for many and a sense of opportunity and personal growth for others, despite varied factors. According to these researchers the factors that influence the effects of divorce on children include coping methods, support from parents, and exposure to parental conflict post-divorce, contact with both parents, the number of transitions and custody arrangements.

THE PHASES OF DIVORCE

Researchers explain that a divorce is a long, mostly drawn-out process of the ending of a relationship between two individuals. Divorce is the legal ending of a marriage or relationship, which both the individuals have anticipated for a long time (Brentano & ClarkSteward, 2007:341). Divorce is not a one-time event, but a lifelong process and more complex than society makes it out to be. Once a couple makes the decision to get divorced, they and the rest of the family who had been experiencing the feelings of them not being able to maintain their relationship results in painful events which need to come to an end. Divorce has an impact on all the aspects of family life and all involved are traumatised by this final decision.Divorce as described in the South African law refers to the termination of a marital union,meaning that all legal duties and responsibilities of marriage are no longer valid.
According to the South African Divorce Act (70 of 1979) divorce is the dissolution of a marriage and it acquires legal action. It is also understood that divorce is a process and it involves issues of spousal support, child maintenance, property distribution and division of debt. The Divorce Act (70 0f 1979) has also adapted a no-fault divorce which means that parties can get divorced, without the need to provide a reason or no one are at fault.
Furthermore, to safeguard all minor children who are extremely vulnerable when their parents get divorced, the legislation enacted the Mediation in Certain Divorce Matters Act (24 of 1987). This Act established that the Family Advocate, who has the duty to protect the interest of minor children affected by parental divorce, will assist during the process of divorce. Both the above Acts, Divorce Act and Mediation in Certain Divorce Matters Act, together with the Children’s Act (38 of 2005) are legislative safety nets to protect children during parental divorce.The fact remains that the divorce rate is still high in all countries. Belgium has the highest divorce rate with an alarming 70%. Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic and Hungary are countries with divorce rates of more than 60%. In the United States the divorce rate is 53% (Vezzetti, 2016:2). In South Africa from the total of 25 326 divorces granted, 55% had children younger than 18 years (Statistics South Africa, 2018:8). Aside from being emotionally, mentally and financially exhausting divorce is extremely complicated and when minor children are involved the divorce process are more complex.In understanding divorce as a process and the different feelings that couples might have,an overview of the stages of divorce need to be explained. Ebersohn (2006:2) explains that according to the Ecological Systems Theory of Bronfenbrenner the most important thing that needs to be remembered during the restructuring of a family after divorce is that the development of children now occurs within two families. The micro system of divorced children is now divided into two families or households. She defines the two families into the following: the first parent with whom the child resides is called the primary micro family system (PMFS) and the other parental home that the child visits is called the secondary micro family system (SMFS). It is very important to realise that the child is now fully functioning within both family systems, with interaction between these two homes and remembering that both have an influence on one another (Ebersohn, 2006:3). Bronfenbrenner (2005), in his Ecological Systems Theory reminds that during the phases of divorce, the child’s optimal developmental functioning will be influenced by both households, interaction between the two and the ease to which the two households can accommodate one another over a long period of time (Benokraitis, 2015:35). According to the Family Systems Theory, the child is functioning as part of a whole and not individually. This perspective specifies that the family as a unit weighs more than any of their individual needs and that an individual can never function outside the family.
Goldberg and Goldberg (2008:5) explain that this means that a divorce never ends a family as a unit, but it rather restructures the family. The researcher chooses to use the Ecological System Theory when discussing divorce and its phases, as the individual is a part of different systems and functions and all the systems are influenced in the interaction. Divorce is a life changing process which Bohannon (1970) has divided into six distinct phases (Botha, 2011:17; Combrinck, 2014:13; Ferreira Da Costa, 2007:17; Sauer, 2007:18). According to the researchers above, Bohannon’s “six stations”, with the last stage defined by Benokraitis (2015:430) as the psychic stage, also called the religious divorce stage, are discussed as follows.

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Pre-divorce phase

The pre-divorce phase with its different stages will be discussed below:
● Stage 1: The Emotional Divorce Stage
This stage normally occurs before any legal process is started. Combrinck (2014:13)states that this phase is identified by feelings of discontent, unhappiness, dysfunction and frustration. Both spouses know that they are not happy about their relationship and its status. The emotional divorce centres on the deteriorating marriage (Botha, 2011:17).Researchers (Combrinck, 2014:13, Ferreira Da Costa, 2007:17; Sauer, 2007:18) explain that feelings of anger, frustration, hate, hurt and resentment are prolonged for years and therefore differ from couple to couple. With the positive feelings of love and affection disappearing, these couples drift apart (Ferreira Da Costa, 2007:17)
● Stage 2: The Legal Divorce Stage
The legal stage refers to both individuals agreeing that their relationship has deteriorated and that they should start the legal divorce process (Combrinck, 2014:14). Rust Leighman (2009:19) explains that this stage is emotional and financially draining for both individuals. Preller (2013:16) and Kaye (2009:98) include feelings of self-pity, anger and helplessness in this stressful stage. Both these researchers add that if children are involved more stress and challenges may be added, owing to decisions on residence, care of the children and contact issues which need to be dealt with.A child’s ability to cope with divorce also depends on whether the parents settle into amicable (or at least silent) relations or continue to feel angry and conflicted. Children will eventually recover from the parents’ divorce, unless the parents continue to quarrel about visitation rights, take each other to court, or fight with each other at every visit (Robinson,2009:47). From the view of children’s adjustment, an amicable divorce is better than a bitter marriage, but a prolonged and bitter divorce is worst of all. Researchers (Botha,2011:18; Combrinck, 2014:13; Sauer, 2007:18) agree that these negative feelings harm the communication relationship between the spouses which negatively impacts the children involved. Preller (2013:9) states that legal divorce requires stating of the reason for divorce. This means that everyone will state their reason for getting a divorce and disagreement normally exists about who is to blame for the end of the marriage. Amato (2012:5), Collardeau and Ehrenberg (2016:24) and Preller (2013:2) emphasise that even though the “no fault” or without “wrongdoing” by one of the parties are legal terms describing the reason for divorce, the law usually uses incompatibility as reason for divorce. These researchers contend the terms of not identifying the blaming party is a way of moving away from the blaming game that is often involved in parental divorce. During this stage all legal documentation is prepared, and parents engage in the drafting of the parenting plan.
● Stage 3: The Economic Divorce Stage
Ferreira Da Costa (2007:18) refers to the economic stage as the stage where a reality impact presents to both individuals. During this phase the financial implications become harsh, as the second financial contributor to the family income disappears (Ferreira Da Costa, 2007:18). Combrinck (2014:13) explains that this stage is recognised by parents separating, sorting all their legal documents, negotiating on the terms of settlement, child custody and the drafting of parenting schedules. Combrinck (2014:13) and Rust Leighman (2009:13) include feelings of disagreement, arguments, resentment, and conflict, fear, bargaining and pleading in the economic stage of divorce. The fact that emotions are increasing, and due to the division of assets, and couples often turn to the court for assistance during this phase.
● Stage 4: The Co-Parental Divorce Stage
Researchers (Combrinck, 2014:13, Ferreira Da Costa, 2007:18, Rust Leighman, 2009:13) classify this stage as the most difficult stage of divorce, as adults start to confess that they are divorcing and during this phase, the conflict about parenting and custody starts.Combrinck (2014:12) states that this stage is recognised by feelings of parental guilt,uncertainty and concern for their children’s adjustment. Parenting and contact are two aspects that cause parental conflict during this stage. Rust Leighman (2009:13) adds that the co-parental phase involves challenges for both parents owing to the psychological restructuring of new homes for them and their children. Rust Leighman (2009:13) explains that both parents often over-compensate for the family loss and end in power struggles with each other. Preller (2013:12) adds that the co-parental divorce includes aspects like custody, single parent households and visitation. Both Rust Leighman (2009:13) and Preller (2013:12) mention that this is an emotional part of any divorce as many challenges such as residential arrangements, engaging in the drafting of a parenting plan and resolving disagreements between parents need to be resolved.
● Stage 5: The Community Divorce Stage
This stage of divorce addresses both individuals trying to restructure their own lives within the community and social context (Combrinck, 2014:12). Ferreira De Costa (2007:18) states that a divorce is more than an individual or personal issue, it includes and changes the whole community and the socialization within a certain group. Botha (2011:14) refers to enormous social changes that need to be made to establish social balance during divorce. Feelings of relief, excitement, and the reality of the finality of the divorce changes fast to loneliness, disloyalty and fear of new beginnings. For all involved friendships are lost, isolation from certain social/community groups takes place and adjustments in daily living arrangements need to be made (Preller, 2013:13).
● Stage 6: The Physic Divorce Stage/Religious Divorce stage
This stage includes making peace with the divorce and seeking assistance from different religious systems (Combrinck; 2014:13). Ferreira Da Costa (2007:19) and Rust Leighman (2009:14) refer to this stage as a restoration period for the individual, as a new independent identity is formed. The researchers refer to the individual needs of a spouse that need to be redefined in terms of personal growth/development, vocational adaption, sexual changes and social adjustment. Preller (2013:13) acknowledges that feelings of guilt, revival and shame are signs of the new beginnings. Benokraitis (2015:431) explains that during this phase adult literally separate from each other and start on their journey to a new life. During this process of ending, the role as married individual changes to a single autonomous individual. Major changes take place in daily decision-making tasks. Prior to the divorce, daily activities of child raising, and financial functions were a dual responsibility and now individual decisions need to be made. In many cases divorcing people battle with this (Botha, 2011:16).It is important to note that each stage takes time and is an individual process. No two divorcing families are the same and it takes time to adjust to all these challenges. Parents should assist their children through this process and make sure that they adjust well.

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Dedication
Declaration
Acknowledgements
Abstract
CHAPTER 1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Background
1.3 Definition of key concepts
1.4 Rationale and problem statement
1.5 Goals and objectives of the study
1.6 Research methodology
1.7 Contents of the report
CHAPTER 2 DIVORCE AND CHILDREN
2.1 Introduction
2.2 The phases of divorce
2.2.1 Pre-Divorce phase
2.3 Effects of divorce on children
2.4 Children’s reaction to parental divorce within their developmental phase
2.4.1 Developmental phases
2.4.2 Synthesis of developmental stages
2.5 Factors that affect children’s adjustment to divorce
2.6 Conclusion
CHAPTER 3 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK FOR THE STUDY
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Divorce and the change in family systems in societies
3.3 Family Systems and divorce
3.3.1 The nature of the Family Systems Theory
3.3.2 Characteristics of the family as a system
3.3.2.1 Boundaries
3.3.2.2 Roles
3.3.2.3 Rules
3.3.2.4 Hierarchy
3.3.2.5 Climate
3.3.2.6 Equilibrium
3.3.2.7 First-Order and second-order cybernetics
3.3.2.8 Information processing
3.4 Divorce and the ecological systems theory
3.5 Conclusion
CHAPTER 4 PARENTING PLANS AND CO-PARENTING
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Purpose of a parenting plan 
4.3 Legal instruments in structuring parenting plans
4.3.1 Section 28 of the Constitution (1996)
4.3.2 United Nations Convention on the rights of the child
4.3.3 The African Charter on the rights and welfare of the child
4.3.4 The Children’s Act
4.4 Advantages of a parenting plan
4.5 Elements of a successful parenting plan
4.6 Co-parenting
4.6.1 The nature of co-parenting
4.6.2 The benefits of co-parenting
4.7 Developmental considerations for parenting plans
4.8 Conclusion
CHAPTER 5 MEDIATION MODEL AND PARENTING PLANS IN SOUTH-AFRICA
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Definition of mediation
5.3 General principles of divorce and family mediation
5.4 The mediation process in drafting and implementing a parenting plan in South Africa
5.4.1 Contractual phase
5.4.2 Facilitation or mediation phase
5.4.3 Report writing phase
5.5 Parenting plans in South Africa
5.6 Best interests of the child
5.7 Topics included in a parenting plan
5.8 Ethical guidelines during the drafting of a parenting plan
5.9 Conclusion
CHAPTER 6 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Aim and objectives of the study
6.3 Research question
6.4 Research approach
6.4.1 Qualitative phase
6.4.2 Quantitative phase
6.5 Type of research
6.6 Research design
6.6.1 Qualitative design
6.6.2 Quantitative design
6.7 Research methods
6.7.1 Research population and sampling
6.7.1.1 Qualitative phase
6.7.1.2 Quantitative phase
6.8 Methods of data collection
6.8.1 Qualitative data collection
6.8.2 Quantitative data collection
6.9 Data analysis
6.9.1 Qualitative data analysis
6.9.2 Data verification and validation
6.9.3 Quantitative data analysis
6.9.4 Data validation and reliability
6.10 Pilot study
6.10.1 Qualitative phase
6.10.2 Quantitative phase
6.11 Ethical considerations
6.11.1 Avoidance of harm
6.11.2 Voluntary participation
6.11.3 Informed consent
6.11.4 Deception of subjects and/or respondents
6.11.5 Violation of privacy/anonymity/confidentiality
6.11.6 Debriefing of participants
6.11.7 Action and competence of the researcher
6.11.8 Publication of the findings
6.12 Summary
CHAPTER 7 QUALITATIVE RESEARCH FINDINGS AND INTERPRETATION
7.1 Introduction
7.2 Empirical findings
7.2.1 Section A: biographical profile, family composition and financial status
7.2.2 Summary of biographical profile, family composition and financial status
7.3 Section B: parenting plans and divorce
7.3.1 Theme 1: perception of parents of a parenting plan
7.3.2 Theme 2: factors influencing the implementation of a parenting plan
7.3.3 Theme 3: recommendations to parents and professionals
7.4 Summary of empirical findings
CHAPTER 8 QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH FINDINGS AND INTERPRETATION
8.1 Introduction
8.2 Quantitative data analysis
8.3 Quantitative empirical findings
8.4 Biographic details of respondents
8.4.1 Biographical profiles of respondents
8.4.1.1 Gender
8.4.1.2 Age
8.4.1.3 Province
8.4.1.4 Profession of participants
8.4.1.5 Highest qualification
8.5 Training in terms of parenting plans
8.6 Professionals experience working with divorcing families and parenting plans
8.6.1 Experience working with divorce matters
8.6.2 Experience in working with parenting plans in practice
8.6.3 Experience in drafting parenting plans in practice
8.7 Factors influencing the success or failure of parenting plans
8.8 Drafting of parenting plans in practice
8.8.1 Individuals attending the sessions
8.9 Using a template or standard questionnaire
8.10 Education of parents during the session
8.11 Financial commitment
8.12 Parenting plans as specialised field
8.13 Topics in a parenting plan that result in the most conflict between parents
8.14 Description of the process followed when drafting a parenting plan
8.15 Summary
CHAPTER 9 GUIDELINES FOR PARENTING PLANS IN SOUTH-AFRICA
9.1 Introduction
9.2 Literature review on guidelines in drafting parenting plans
9.2.1 Parenting plan specifications
9.3 Conclusions made during the qualitative and quantitative phases
9.3.1 Conclusion of qualitative research
9.3.1.1 Perception of a parenting plan
9.3.1.2 Factors influencing the implementation of parenting plans
9.3.1.3 Parents’ recommendations to parents and professionals
9.3.2 Conclusion of quantitative research
9.3.2.1 Training of professionals
9.3.2.2 Experience with divorcing matters, parenting plans and drafting parenting plans
9.3.2.3 Factors influencing the success/failure of parenting plans
9.3.2.4 Individuals attending sessions
9.3.2.5 Using a template or standardised questionnaire during the drafting session
9.3.2.6 Education of parents
9.3.2.7 Financial matters and contracting
9.3.2.8 Drafting a parenting plan should be a specialised field
9.3.2.9 Quantitative data from the respondents’ views
9.4 Guidelines for both parents and professionals during the process of drafting parenting plans
9.4.1 Guidelines for parents
9.4.2 Guidelines for professionals
9.5 Conclusion
CHAPTER 10 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
10.1 Introduction
10.2 Aim and objectives of the present study
10.2.1 Objectives of the research study as pertained in the consecutive chapters
10.3 Research question
10.4 Theoretical frameworks of the study
10.5 Key findings and conclusions
10.5.1 Literature review
10.5.2 Parenting plans and co-parenting
10.5.2.1 Key findings
10.5.2.2 Conclusions
10.5.3 Family systems theory and ecological systems theory.
10.5.3.1 Key findings
10.5.3.2 Conclusions
10.5.4 Divorce and middle childhood
10.5.4.1 Key findings
10.5.4.2 Conclusions
10.5.5 Mediation model and parenting plans in South Africa
10.5.5.1 Key findings
10.5.5.2 Conclusions
10.6 Key findings and conclusion of the empirical study
10.6.1 Empirical findings of the qualitative phase
10.6.1.1 Key findings of the respondents who participated in the research
10.6.2 Key findings of the quantitative phase
10.6.2.1 Biographical profiles of respondents
10.6.2.2 Training in parenting plans
10.6.2.3 Experience with divorcing matters, parenting plans and drafting parenting plans
10.6.2.4 Factors influencing the success/failure of parenting plans
10.6.2.5 Individuals attending sessions
10.6.2.6 using a template or standardized questionnaire during the drafting session
10.6.2.7 Education to parents
10.6.2.8 Financial agreements and contracting
10.6.2.9 Drafting a parenting plan should be a specialized field
10.6.3 Quantitative data from the respondent’s views
10.6.3.1 Topics that result in a parenting plan that result in the most conflict between parents
10.6.3.2 The process of drafting a parenting plan
10.7 Recommendations
10.7.1 Recommendations from the qualitative research phase
10.7.2 Recommendations from the quantitative research phase
10.7.3 Recommendations for future research
10.7.4 Recommendations for policy
10.8 Limitations and strengths of the study
10.9 Concluding remarks
References

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