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The Financial Cost of Divorce

with Steve Grissom | July 12, 2006

Divorce can deal some serious blows to a person emotionally, mentally, and economically. Today on the broadcast, Steve Grissom, founder of DivorceCare, a ministry designed to help those recovering from divorce or separation, shares what he knows firsthand about the financial and legal aspects of divorce.

Divorce can deal some serious blows to a person emotionally, mentally, and economically. Today on the broadcast, Steve Grissom, founder of DivorceCare, a ministry designed to help those recovering from divorce or separation, shares what he knows firsthand about the financial and legal aspects of divorce.

The Financial Cost of Divorce

With Steve Grissom
|
July 12, 2006
| Download Transcript PDF

Dennis: Listen to this statistic -- in the year following a divorce, the woman's standard of living falls, on average, by 73 percent.  Think about that -- 73 percent.  People are barely getting by today but now they've been asked to get by on that much less.  Divorce does cost.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, July 12th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Today we want to consider the legal and financial implications of the decision to divorce.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition.  Quickly, Dennis, let me alert our listeners to the fact that between now and the end of the month, they have an opportunity to sign up for one of the upcoming FamilyLife Weekend to Remember conferences at a discounted rate.  We're going to be hosting dozens of these conferences this fall in cities all around the country, and for those couples who can sit down now, look at the weekend when the conference is going to be coming to a city near where you live, mark that weekend out on your calendar and go ahead and make plans to attend.  We will get you registered between now and the end of July at a discounted rate.  You will save $60 per couple off the regular registration fee, that's our group rate, when you sign up between now and the end of July. 

 If you're signing up online, when you fill out your form there will be a keycode box.  You just type in my name, "Bob," and that way we'll know you're a FamilyLife Today listener, and you'll be eligible for the discount at that point.

 So either go on our website, FamilyLife.com, for more information about where these conferences are being held, and you can register online, if you'd like, or call 1-800-FLTODAY and mention that you're a FamilyLife Today listener, and that you'd like to attend a conference.  We'll get you all registered, and you'll save $60 per couple off the regular registration fee.

 Now, this week we are dealing with a difficult subject but one that is very important.  Dennis?

Dennis: That's right, and equipping our listeners to help their friends get out of this ditch and not in their marriage and sever their covenant.  And with us this week has been Steve Grissom.  Steve, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.

Steve: Thanks, Dennis.

Dennis: Many of your listeners who have been listening know that Steve is the president of Church Initiative, which is a ministry committed to divorce care, divorce recovery, and also a new series he just created called "Before You Divorce."  In fact, we have a clip here at the beginning of the broadcast that I want to play, because it's an interview that you did with a gentleman by the name of Alonzo, and Alonzo had just been granted a divorce and was sitting in his YMCA room that he had rented, a very cheap room, and was reflecting back on how he felt after that divorce had been granted in the courtroom.

Steve: And, interestingly, Dennis, this was a divorce that Alonzo wanted to happen.

Bob: Let's listen to what he had to say about the granting of that divorce.

Alonzo: (From videotape.) Yeah, here I am thinking I had achieved a victory and, actually, I had really took one step further to defeat.  After the whole thing had transpired, I felt really bad about it.  I felt like I had really betrayed someone and that elation that I felt in the courtroom quickly left, and then I felt really alone.  I said -- it was just a feeling of being alone like I had lost my best friend.  It wasn't a very good feeling at all, and after I got back in my room and started thinking about that, it's just not right.  This is -- I don't even feel right, you know, I feel like I’m just floating in an abyss.

Dennis: You, Steve, it's interesting, sitting here looking at that video while he was talking, his body language, when he started talking about that aloneness, that despair he was feeling, he was uncomfortable.  He's still feeling it today, years after the divorce.

Steve: And they're back together.  They reconciled, but that emotion is still with him.

Dennis: Yeah, yeah, it's interesting, and yet divorce is painted by our culture today as being a pain-free way to go.  It's the way to get rid of your hassles and get rid of this person that you don't like or who doesn't like you or who hassles you and be rid of the responsibility and be free of it. 

 Now, what took place that day when you got a divorce?  Because you experienced one as well?

Steve: It's very interesting, because the laws are different state by state, so everybody's experience is different.  In my state you don't have to go to the final divorce proceedings.  The person who initiates the divorce does, and so my former wife went, and I have no idea what happened.  I went through the day obviously in an emotional disarray because I believe that I was being divorced that day, but I didn't know and, in fact, I didn't know until I called the courthouse in the next day or two and said, "Did I get a divorce?"  And the clerk said, "Yes, that was granted."  Why wouldn't it be?

Bob: If you'd gone that day and stood up and said, "Judge, I don't want this divorce."  What would have happened?

Steve: It would have made no difference at all, at least in our state and with our no-fault divorce laws.  But you think back to Alonzo, there's a man who wanted the divorce.  See, there's a big myth out there that if you want the divorce, you get it, you're going to be happy, and that's not true.  That's not true for several reasons.  One is God says "I hate divorce," and He'll work on you.  But, secondly, it doesn't solve any of your problems.

Dennis: Steve, there's a ton of practical issues that are all raised as this divorce is finalized -- small things, seemingly insignificant things.

Steve: My wedding ring was a big deal for me.  I took it off -- I left it on until the day I knew I was divorced.  I actually had it on after I was divorced because I didn't call right away.  This was a silly thing, maybe, to some people, but, to me, it was a gut-wrenching thing.  What do I do with my wedding ring?  So the first thing I did with it was took it off -- not to signal that I was available.  I'd made a commitment that I was not going to date while I was still married, I was not going to have a relationship.  But I wasn't married, and so I felt it appropriate to take it off.  I put it on my -- in my dresser and left it there for a while, but, you know, that thing just gnawed at me.  I didn't know what to do with it.  So I finally, in essence, had a funeral for it.  I took it to a bridge over a little creek in our town, and I dropped that into the creek.

Dennis: What did you feel on that bridge standing over that creek?

Steve: I felt awful, and to watch that ring roll down and drop into the water, it seemed to go in slow motion, and I realized I believed the marriage was over.  I was still even, at that point, committed to reconciliation, but I knew I also needed to get to a point of closure on it.  It wasn't healthy.

Dennis: Steve, that was in 1987.  There is emotion in your voice even as you tell that story today.

Steve: I believe I can tell you that you never completely heal from divorce.  You can heal substantially, but Miles Monroe, who is one of the people who appears on our videos, describes divorce this way -- "The Bible says marriage is a coming together of two people into one flesh."  And he puts his hands together then, and he says, "They're united as one person, and when they come apart, there is a ripping, a tearing, of that flesh," and he pulls his hands apart, and he says, "What you've got is not two individuals.  You've got two half people with huge, gaping emotional wounds."  And that was me.  The Lord has healed me in many, many ways, but you can never really heal completely.  There is scarring.

Dennis: You know, it's not popular today to quote Malachi, chapter 2, verse 16.  It's one of the simplest verses in all the Bible because it's what God said, and it reads, "For I hate divorce."  And what you're describing here gives us a clue as to why He hates it.  It is the dividing of that which was meant to be indivisible.  It's the tearing asunder of that which was not ever intended to be anything other than one.  It's a tragedy, and I think that's why, Bob, God spoke so highly of the marriage covenant and why He spoke to that nation of Israel in Malachi, chapter 2, when he said, "For I seek a godly legacy."  I think somehow they're dealing treacherously with one another there in Malachi, chapter 2, and the divorce that they were experiencing somehow impacted their legacy to such a degree that it diminished the probability of a godly offspring, of a godly legacy.  Emotionally, spiritually, it was never intended to happen.

Bob: What goes on as two attorneys get together, and maybe both sides are saying, "We want this to be a friendly kind of a situation."  A husband says, "I want to make sure my wife is provided for."  Why is it not possible for there to be an amicable dissolution of a marriage?

Steve: You've got to understand the divorce industry in the United States and everywhere now.  It is so overloaded that they jam the divorces through the system.  Even so, it can take months just to get a simple case through.  So to every degree possible, the process is now mechanized.  Attorneys, even well-intentioned attorneys have a huge caseload.  There are so many divorces they can't keep up with them.

 So while it is the most traumatic immediate event in your life, it's just another thing in the inbox of the attorney.

Dennis: So you're saying they're not going to give the personalized care and attention to the dissolution of your marriage that you think they might give you?

Steve: No, no way.  What they're going to do is help you get the best deal possible, and if they are as aggressive as many are, they're going to nail your spouse to the wall, and I have to ask you if that's what you want.

Dennis: You know, I'll never forget reading a piece that was in a legal magazine that was a woman who had evidently gotten a divorce during the day, and she was reflecting about dinner that evening.  She said, "Here I sat with my husband's children and just a few hours ago we were standing up in the courtroom shouting and tearing at each other."  And she said, "Here I am at the dinner table wondering what have I done?  That's my children's father."

Steve: Yes.

Dennis: This is real stuff that's happening here.

Steve: The big lie is no-fault divorce and the friendly divorce -- there's actually a book out by that title.  There are no friendly divorces, and there are no easy, clean divorces. 

Bob: Dennis, one of the people that Steve interviewed in the "Before You Divorce" video series was a young lady named Kathy who found herself facing devastating financial consequences as a result of a divorce.  What was her situation, Steve?

Steve: Her situation was she was a stay-at-home mom, three young kids, I believe, under six, numbed by this experience.  She tells the story of going into her bathroom and spending days on end in the fetal position, just emotionally trying to absorb this, and then once that stage was over, she had to deal with the reality of her financial situation.  She couldn't work.

Dennis: You know, as you listen to this clip, too, from your video kit that you put together to prevent divorce, I want you to listen to the loss of her sense of having a home and its impact on her.

Kathy: (From videotape.)  It's such a snowball effect, everything you have to do.  We had to sell our home.  Here is the home I had -- one of my children had been born in.  I had been for five years.  First, there's the trauma of losing the relationship, compound that on here I am with all of my wonderful friends moving my furniture out of my home, looking around, going what happened?  This was my home.

 All of the security you had is gone now.  There is a sense of security when you walk into your home -- this is home, this is home, at least I've got home.  Well, home is now gone.  You need to find a place to live that you can rent that you and three children can live in that you feel safe in as a single mother with three children.  And now I need to start learning how to pay bills and to live on budget.  I've never done this before.  I sat down with my father.  He helped me write it all out on paper, how does it look, you need to quit subscribing to these magazines, you need to stop this, you need to stop that, you need to cut back here, you need to give this up, you need to stop this.

 All these things I needed to change to work my life around this new set financial amount that I was getting which looked, on paper, like a lot of money.  But it doesn't always come out that way.

Dennis: You know, watching that video again, because we have one set up here in the studio, she was still confused.  I mean, Alonzo, earlier in the broadcast, as we viewed him, he was still feeling the impact of that divorce.  Here she is, you can tell she's revisiting the bewilderment, the confusion, the responsibility -- most people aren't ready for that.  What was her settlement?  I mean, how much did she get?

Steve: You know, I don't know the dollars.  I know the money she was talking about was child support.

Bob: Not alimony?

Steve: Not alimony.  It's very seldom granted anymore.  I believe most of what she was talking about was child support.

Dennis: Alimony is not granted?

Steve: Not as often.

Bob: I remember, Dennis, a mom I knew, the mother of four children whose husband left her, and I remember watching her try to manage the family finances, and then I remember the holidays when this ex-husband would bring by the gifts for the kids.  And, you know, he'd lavish the kids with gifts, and I remember watching her face draw tight and grim because she'd been wrestling with how to have enough money to buy tennis shoes for the kids and having to be the bad guy and saying we just don't have the money for this and, all of a sudden, here comes the ex-husband with a new Nintendo for his little boy.  He's the good guy.  She's the villain, and all those emotions just come right back.

Dennis: You know, one of the realities about a divorce that isn't talked about is that it spins off single-parent women into a financial crisis while the husband may not have to face near the financial problems that she has to face as she raises children and has to go back to work.

 As we talk about all this, I've got to ask you, Steve, are there alternatives to litigation when it comes for two people who are struggling with each other?  You know, as I look at 1 Corinthians, chapter 6, it makes it clear we're not to go before the unrighteous judge to have him settle our disputes.  Shouldn't the church be a greater solution when a couple is struggling over their relationship?

Steve: The church should help.  There are Christian mediation/conciliation mechanisms available.  The key is -- are one or both parties willing to agree, and if you have an initiating person, somebody who has initiated the divorce, and they want victory, they won't go that route.  And so you end up in court.

 Now, they often get surprised.  You heard Alonzo talk about the emotional impact, but a lot of dads, for instance, who initiate a divorce don't think through the implications of child support, which goes on typically until the kids are 18, sometimes through college, it depends on the situation.

 But they may already be in another relationship and about ready to marry somebody who has kids, and they're thinking, "Well, I'm going to have this family to support," and not really thinking about the fact that they're going to have to continue to support the children they fathered in the other marriage.

Dennis: Steve, what are we talking about in terms of support of the children after the divorce?

Steve: It's very mechanized, it's very formulized, it depends on whether the mom has a job and has an income, and there's no real guideline I can give you.  It's tailored to each individual situation.

Dennis: And for the single-parent mom it's not going to be enough for her to continue living as she had before, generally speaking.

Steve: Whole lifestyle change -- it changes everything as it relates to the lifestyle.  For some, they can make that adjustment.  Others have lived the lifestyle so long that that's another part of the emotional pain is the losses, the things they have to give up as a result of this divorce.

Bob: You know, Dennis, the reason to go through all of this -- the legal implications, the financial implications -- is because in the midst of the emotional crisis of a marriage dissolving, we're not thinking clearly about these issues, and there aren't a whole lot of people who are stepping into your life at that point and saying, "You need to think about the practical issues that lay ahead if you pursue this."  All you have is folks who generally come along and say, "Gee, we're sorry.  You shouldn't have to go through this."  "He's a bum."  "She's not worth it."  And they kind of cheer you on, and they don't help you think through the reality of what lies ahead.

Dennis: There is a spiritual cost, an emotional cost, a physical cost, a financial cost.  Divorce isn't looked at as a cost, it's looked at as relief.  It isn't relief except maybe temporarily but even that is only celebrated as we've listened to on some of the clips here today.  Even that's only celebrated for a few moments before the reality of this one-flesh relationship having been severed and two people torn in two.  The reality is for those of us who are followers of Christ, we have it as our mandate, I believe, to go to battle, to go to war, on behalf of these couples who are off in the ditch and to do everything we can through our prayer, through our counsel, through our exhortation.  If necessary, rebuking, confronting.

Bob: You've gone so far as to show up at the courthouse on the day of the divorce hearing.

Dennis: Well, I offer to do that, Bob.  Actually, the wife preferred that we not do that, but what I wanted to do was take all the friends of this one particular guy, and when he came down to get the divorce, I wanted us to line the halls.  But the divorce had taken so long, it took over two years for the proceedings to occur that, by that time, the wife simply had lost all heart.

Bob: She was exhausted.

Dennis: She was exhausted at that point, but I was willing to go down there and have everybody stand there with all of our children and say, "Don't do it."

Bob: And you know what?  It shouldn't have to get to that, should it?  I mean, ideally, there would be friends and family who would come alongside a couple in the midst of a difficult spot and would help pull them out of the ditch; who would recommend resources; point them in the right direction; maybe encourage them to come to one of our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences.  We heard just recently from a couple who had attended one of our conferences, a scenario that was not unfamiliar to us. 

This couple was attending the conference because they didn't know where else to turn, they had no hope left for their marriage, they were headed toward divorce.  But at the Weekend to Remember conference, they got two things -- they got hope, and they got tools.  They got the biblical blueprints for how to get their marriage back on track where it needs to be, and they had a fresh sense of hope about the future.

During this month, during the month of July, Dennis, we are encouraging FamilyLife Today listeners to sign up for one of the upcoming fall Weekend to Remember conferences.  We're going to be in about four dozen cities this fall all across the country and, as an extra incentive for our listeners to sign up this month, we are making the group rate available to FamilyLife Today listeners without needing to be a part of a group.  We figure you're listeners, you're already part of a group, and so you can register online at FamilyLife.com or by phone at 1-800-FLTODAY, and when you let us know you're a FamilyLife Today listener, you will save $60 per couple off the regular registration fee.  That's the special rate that's available during the month of July. 

If you're registering online, when you come to the keycode box, you just type in my name, just type in "Bob," and that way we'll know that you're a FamilyLife Today listener, and you qualify for the special rate, or if you call 1-800-FLTODAY to register, mention you are a FamilyLife Today listener, and we will make the special rate available to you as well.  Again, you save $60 per couple off the regular registration fee if you contact us before the end of July, and let me encourage you -- go online.  There's information about when the conference is coming to a particular city near where you live.  You can check the dates and make sure they work with your schedule or check them out and recommend the conference to someone you know who would benefit from being there.

Again, the website is FamilyLife.com, the toll-free number is 1-800-FLTODAY, and when you do contact us, you can also get more information about the DVD series we've talked about this week with guest, Steve Grissom.  It's called "Choosing Wisely Before You Divorce," and I know over the last several years, we have sent this DVD series out to hundreds of people who have called and said, "I know someone who is in this situation.  I want them to understand the reality of what they are considering." 

We have the DVD series in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  Again, you can contact us either online at FamilyLife.com.  You can order online, if you'd like, or call 1-800-FLTODAY for more information about this DVD series.  Dennis?

Dennis: Well, Steve Grissom, it's been instructive to have you on the broadcast today and to help us better understand how we can counsel our friends as they perhaps consider divorce and how to rescue that marriage from ever having to go through the trial of divorce.  It occurs to me, though, in the process of this, that we have been speaking of single parents and those receiving the children as though it's only the moms who receive those children and who get child support.  That's not always the case today, is it?

Steve: I am shocked by the divorce recovery groups we operate called "Divorce Care," at the number of single dads with custody -- they face the same kinds of problems.  They face different kinds of problems, too, but more and more women are leaving the marriage, and that's a tragedy.

Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. 

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