For most families, marriage breakdown provokes three crises: an emotional crisis; an economic crisis; and a parenting crisis. Both of the spouses and their children suffer severe emotional upheaval when the unity of the family disintegrates. Failure in the most basic of life’s commitments is not lightly shrugged off by its victims. Marriage breakdown, whether or not accompanied by divorce, is a painful experience. Furthermore, relatively few families encounter separation or divorce without encountering financial setbacks. The emotional and economic crises resulting from marriage breakdown are compounded by the co-parental divorce when there are dependent children. Bonding between children and their absent parent is inevitably threatened by spousal separation and divorce.
Paul Bohannan identified six "stations" in the highly complex human process of marriage breakdown:
· the emotional divorce;
· the legal divorce;
· the economic divorce;
· the co-parental divorce;
· the community divorce; and
· the psychic divorce.1
Each of these stations of divorce involves an evolutionary process and there is substantial interaction among them. The dynamics of marriage breakdown, which are multifaceted, cannot be addressed in isolation.
History demonstrates a predisposition to seek the solution to the crises of marriage breakdown in external systems. During the past 150 years, the Church, law, and medicine have each been called upon to...