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Post Divorce Well-being Factors

Post Divorce Well-being Factors

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Published by Christy Carter

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Published by: Christy Carter on Apr 25, 2013
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Copyright © eContent Management Pty Ltd.
 Journal of Family Studies 
: 62–75.
Volume 18, Issue 1, June 2012
Post-divorce wellbeing in Flanders: Facilitative professionalsand quality of arrangements matter
, A
, R
, J
*University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium and Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium;
Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium;
IPOS-project, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium;
PsychiatryDivision, Faculty of Medicine, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium;
Institute for Family andSexuality Studies, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
Expanding on current advancement in divorce and family dispute resolution research, an integrative and process-oriented model is presented. This article explores the extent to which, and how, individual, trajectory, and arrangement factors are related to post-divorce personal wellbeing. Questionnaire data were collected from a sample of 423 individuals whodivorced through mediation or litigation. A subsample of 112 respondents provided extra information on the personal qualities of divorce professionals. A series of multiple regression analysis demonstrated that: (1) gender, (2) experienced  facilitative problem solving behaviors and the Rogerian personal qualities of professionals, and (3) the quality of divorce arrangements all directly relate to post-divorce wellbeing. No significant associations emerged for other individual charac-teristics (i.e., age, having children or not, pre-divorce conflict levels, relationship duration, initiator-status), or trajectory  features (i.e., type of professional and type of legal procedure). Path analytic procedures did not show any indirect effect  from problem solving behaviors or Rogerian attitudes of lawyers and mediators on post-divorce wellbeing through its effect on the quality of divorce arrangements. The implications for mediation practice are discussed.
Key words:
divorce; family dispute resolution; post-divorce wellbeing; facilitative practice; divorcearrangements; mediation
ver the past four decades, societies at largeand families in particular have becomemore conscious about the unavoidable reality of divorce (Demo & Fine, 2010; Hetherington &Kelly, 2002). In fact, at least one out of threemarriages in Australia (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], 2007), and one out of twomarriages in the United States (Amato & Irving,2006) ends up in divorce. Accordingly, legisla-tive frameworks and empirical research arechanging in an attempt to preserve post-divorce wellbeing.
The legal context 
Responding to elevated divorce rates, no-faultlegislation emerged in a lot of Western countries.That is, the assumption of fault during a legaldivorce no longer had to reside with one of thepartners, which generally materialized in the pos-sibility to divorce with or without mutual consent(Beck & Sales, 2001). Furthermore, this no-faultdivorce ‘revolution’ facilitated the implementa-tion of the so called ‘child’s best interest’ standardin deciding on post-divorce arrangements. Nolonger the gender of one of the parents, or their wishes, determined what the outcome of a divorcecase would be. Instead divorce professionals took on an idiosyncratic and child-centered approach(Emery, 1994).Such developments facilitated the introduc-tion of mediation during the first decade of thepresent century (Casals, 2005). Mediation altered judicial codes and allowed court proceedingsto be suspended in favor of a consensual agree-ment by couples to mediate their family disputes. According to Casals (2005), mediation is typically predicated on three key principles: (a) a confiden-tial and privileged mediation process; (b) the pres-ence of an independent, impartial and competentmediator; and (c) being voluntary for clients.
Correspondence to
: Rachid Baitar, Capucijnenvoer35 blok D bus 7001, 3000 Leuven, Belgium;Tel: 0032 16 33 26 29; e-mail: Rachid.Baitar@gmail.com
Post-divorce wellbeing in Flanders
© eContent Management Pty Ltd
Volume 18, Issue 1, June 2012
Pre-divorce conflict levels are also known toinfluence post-divorce wellbeing. For example, whereas higher global happiness scores are foundin couples with elevated pre-divorce conflictlevels, members of low-conflict couples reportedsharp decreases in post-divorce happiness(Amato & Hohmann-Marriott, 2007). Childrenare also negatively impacted by high levels of mar-ital conflict (Gummings, Schermerhorn, Davies,Goeke-Morey, & Gummings, 2006), irrespectiveof whether their parents are married or divorced(Amato & Afifi, 2006).
 A shift towards process-oriented disputeresolution research
Research has increasingly focused on how divorceconflicts are best resolved (Beck & Sales, 2001). Infact, reviews of the research literature (e.g., Emery,Sbarra, & Grover, 2005; Kelly, 1996, 2004) as wellas a recent quantitative meta-analysis (Shaw, 2010)report greater outcome-efficacy for mediation whencompared with litigation. Indeed, mediation pro-duces relatively high settlement-rates of 50–85%(Benjamin & Irving, 1995; Kelly, 1996) and ele-vated satisfaction scores are expressed by 60–85%of all mediation users (Kelly, 1996). However, themajority of mediation studies include small unrep-resentative samples, and are based on untested pre-sumptions with respect to the underlying process,and its impact on the quality of dispute resolutionoutcomes (Beck & Sales, 2001).The common conjecture is that superior medi-ation outcomes are an expression of the facilita-tive nature of mediation, whereas the adversarialnature of litigation negatively impacts the quality of dispute resolution (Sarrazin, Cyr, Lévesque, &Boudreau, 2005; Shestowsky, 2004). In brief,facilitative mediators typically display interest-based and process-oriented problem solving behaviors, and are more impartial, empathic andinformal than adversarial lawyers (Mayer, 2004;Riskin, 1996). Yet, recent findings specify thatsome mediators are directive rather than facilitative(Charkoudian, De Ritis, Buck, & Wilson, 2009;Sarrazin et al., 2005). Moreover, some lawyers arereported to actively incorporate facilitative princi-ples within their professional practice (Macfarlane,2008; Wright, 2007). Hence, controlling for theBut there are limits to the extent to which con-temporary mediation and divorce laws alone canimprove the quality of life by themselves.
 A shift towards process-oriented divorceresearch
In order to assess divorce effects, research typically compares continuously married individuals withdivorced individuals. Such studies have frequently observed that wellbeing decreases by the often sharpdecline in financial living standards following divorce(Smock, Manning, & Sanjiv, 1999). Physical andmental health often decline too (Wood, Goesling,& Avellar, 2007), as does the quality of life due to a diminishing network of social supports and the levelof intimacy (Albeck & Kaydar, 2002).But focusing only on the negative conse-quences of divorce does not tell the full story.Indeed, such a deficit approach is increasingly being challenged and replaced by a perspective where both negative and positive consequencescan prevail (Demo & Fine, 2010). For instance,divorced persons are reported to exhibit morepersonal growth and higher autonomy (Tashiro& Frazier, 2003) and are more likely to investin their physical appearances and psychological wellbeing (Hetherington & Kelly, 2002).The observation that divorce is not a uni-tary experience stimulated research aimed atthe identification of factors that help to explainpost-divorce quality of life. One such factor is thegender of the person divorcing. For example, thepattern of financial diminishment is more oftenthan not larger for women than for men and thisis in spite of family size (Bianchi, Subaiya, &Kahn, 1999; Smyth & Weston, 2000). In addi-tion, men exhibit a higher likelihood of alco-hol problems than women, whereas women aremore likely than men to experience depression(Horwitz, White, & Howell-White, 1996).However, gender-related differences may alsostem from the consistent finding that women aremore likely to initiate divorce (Amato & Irving,2006; Wolcott & Hughes, 1999). Such findings arerelevant given that individuals that initiate separa-tion generally report higher post-divorce wellbeing than non-initiators (the so-called ‘lever/left’ effect;e.g., Emery, 1994; Wang & Amato, 2000).
Rachid Baitar et al.
Volume 18, Issue 1, June 2012
© eContent Management Pty Ltd
connects and integrates the above mentionedshifts in divorce legislation and research into a single process-oriented research model.The model is inspired by the framework asdescribed by Schalock (2004). We applied thismodel to the divorce context. In short, specificinput-characteristics (e.g., gender, initiator-status, and pre-divorce conflict levels) are the-orized to determine the nature of the divorcetrajectory (e.g., with or without mutual con-sent, mediation or litigation, level of facilita-tiveness). Subsequently, the latter is formativefor the quality of trajectory outcomes (e.g.,divorce arrangements), which in turn is themost proximal contributing factor for the qual-ity of life of individuals experiencing divorce.Further, the model identifies that environmen-tal factors (e.g., local divorce policies and thelegal context) shape all aforementioned com-ponents of the model. This model needs to betested empirically.In this article, we explore which factors pre-dict post-divorce quality of life. According toour model, the quality of divorce arrangements will positively and directly be associated with thequality of life following divorce (Hypothesis 1). We further postulate that characteristics of thetrajectory will enhance the quality of divorcearrangements and, in turn, the quality of life.Specifically, the more mediators and lawyers areexperienced to be facilitative, the more this willindirectly increase the quality of life through itseffect on the quality of divorce arrangements(Hypothesis 2). In order to minimize the influ-ence of possible confounding variables, we con-trol for a number of othertrajectory (i.e., type of professional, type of legalprocedure) and individualcharacteristics (i.e., age,gender, having children,pre-divorce conflict, rela-tionship duration, initiatorstatus).
This study draws on data from a unique Flemishadversarialness or in opposite direction the facilita-tiveness of the dispute resolution process is essen-tial for understanding dispute resolution outcomes(Beck, Sales, & Emery, 2004).The use of settlement-rates and satisfaction-scores as markers of quality is also widely con-tested (Beck & Sales, 2001). For instance, signing mediation agreements does not preclude feel-ing unsatisfied with the mediation outcome(Poitras & Le Tareau, 2009). Moreover, somecouples are very satisfied with mediation even when no settlement is reached (Kressel, 1997;Pearson & Thoennes, 1989). The challenge fornew research is thus to better capture the subjec-tively experienced quality of dispute resolutionoutcomes. To this end, Saposnek (1983 in Moore,2003) notes that high quality arrangements areclear (i.e., low interpretation problems), detailed(i.e., high specificity), balanced (i.e., high fairnessof exchanges), and embody positive attitudes andperspectives. Others further identify the compre-hensiveness (i.e., covering all relevant issues) as a key quality indicator for mediation arrangements(Gibson, 1999). Although these quality featuresare typically reputed in many mediation stud-ies, their explicit enclosure in dispute resolutionresearch is non-existent or fragmented at best.
 An integrative research model forpost-divorce quality of life
 Although research has shifted towards more pro-cess-oriented research, so far we lack an overarch-ing framework that integrates empirical findingsand provides a theoretical basis for its interpreta-tion. The conceptual model presented in Figure 1
1: A
TrajectoryoutcomesQualityoflifeDivorcetrajectoryInputcharacte-risticsEnvironmental factorsTime

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