Is Divorce Always the Answer? - Marrison Family Law

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Is Divorce Always the Answer?

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

divorce_reconciliationAre your kids obsessed with "The Parent Trap" movie?  Mine are; and it's always made me wonder if they were trying to send a subliminal message, but 12 years later I am still a single parent.  But recent articles about reconciliation have caught my attention.  Saving marriages through reconciliation counseling isn't something you hear about often, but the subject is not unfamilar to family law attorneys. In fact, it comes up quite often. 

As one so often learns from life experience, it might take a few years to figure out that your ex-spouse wasn't really so bad after all... but is it always a good idea to reconcile? What happens when one person wants it more than the other?

Divorce attorneys are often asked what happens if they decide to get back together, and most divorce lawyers have at least a little experience with this. While there is no hard and fast formula for predicting reconciliation, it is likely that your attorney has seen it happen at least once.

Why reconciliation after divorce?

A good reason for this is that divorce can be a forum through which a couple begins communicating more effectively. It could be the time spent working with a mediator, or that awkward glance on a courtroom elevator, but at times it can be tough to ignore that you were once very much in love. Some couples find that a family crisis brings them back together, such as an illness or a death in the family.

What are your chances of reconciliation?

Before we get into the mechanics of the reconciliation process, let's explore the possibility of it actually happening.

What makes it so easy for some couples to reunite, while other struggle with just being civil to one another? People may get back together all the time, but the possibility of this can be measured by a specific set of variables.

Length of time in marriage

One of the biggest drivers for reconciliation is a long marriage. People who have been married for several decades may not realize it; but their lives are very interdependent on one another. Many married couples may start the reconciliation process shortly after filing for divorce, figuring they have been through too much together to leave it all behind. It is feelings like this that drive couples to rekindle their passion and revive the love they have lost.

Types of relationship issues

Not surprisingly, the reasons you decided to divorce will have a major impact on whether your marriage can be saved. If a couple lacked effective communication skills or suffered from a "dead" marriage, any reconciliation would be impossible without major attention to these marital issues. Otherwise they may be back in divorce court before long.

Issues as devastating as infidelity or abuse will decrease the chances of a successful reconciliation, but nothing is impossible. Keep in mind, however, that getting back together in these situations will require a great deal of counseling for the abuser or adulterer. Breakups that occur because of a substance abuse issue may not recover at all, at least not until the addict has been "clean and sober" for a long time.


Of all the major reasons to reconsider divorce the children are number one. Most people have a hard time living in a separate household than their kids and they don't want their children to lose the security of a two-parent household. Additionally, after the turmoil of separation dies down, the continued connection between parents can arouse old feelings for one another.

According to a 2011 article in the Huffington Post, "Marital Reconciliation: Divorcing Couples with Children Often Open to Saving Marriage," divorce may not be the "end" for couples after all. A significant number of separated couples said they were open to saving their marriage and would even consider professional reconciliation services. This was true even for those who had already filed for divorce.

The report was based on a study which surveyed more than 2,500 divorcing couples with children. A surprising 45 percent of participants answered "yes" to the question, "Do you think your divorce could be prevented if one or both of you works hard to save the marriage?" Male participants were more likely than women to say the marriage could be saved, and they were also more willing to work with a professional reconciliation counselor.

Reconciliation counseling – does it help?

In many ways, the conclusions of this study made a strong case for a legislative proposal known as "The Second Chances Act," which was published by a conservative organization, The Institute of American Values. The purpose of this proposal was to reduce the number of "unnecessary divorces" in the United States by requiring mandatory education about reconciliation and a one-year waiting period for couples with minor children.

The Huffington Post article included an interview with William J. Doherty, one of the study's lead researchers and a social science professor at University of Minnesota, to gain a better understanding of the study's findings. Doherty said he was not surprised that more men were willing to reconcile because he believes that is a function of who initiates the breakup, and more women initiate marital separation than men do. He adds that the one who is broken-up upon is usually surprised by the news and it takes them a while to get their head around what's happening. They may be willing to talk about it more than the person who initiated the divorce because; chances are the "leaver" has been rehearsing this for many months.

The study also found that people who were earlier in the divorce process are more likely to believe their marriage can be saved. Doherty explains that this is the case because so much more "damage" gets done throughout the divorce process itself.


Based on these recent studies and popular opinion, it seems that reconciliation is best before the divorce is final and is more favorable when a couple has children, has been married for a long time, and is not breaking up over infidelity. Whether or not one has been to marriage counseling doesn't seem to factor into their willingness to reconcile. But don't give up if your marriage ended years ago. There are still many couples who remarry the same person later in life, perhaps after realizing that they really were married to the right person.

Photo Courtesy of Photostock /

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MPatMarrisonFor over a quarter century, we have helped people during what is often the darkest time in their lives. Divorce is not easy even under the best of circumstances. For most people, family is central. Having something go wrong in the family can have a ripple effect that extends beyond the home and into other areas.

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