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Intellect

Y professor publishes guidebook for couples considering divorce

  • A new guidebook is available for people considering divorce
  • The publication combines real-life stories and what's known about divorce from research
  • The book makes people aware of critical questions that sometimes don't come up until after the papers are signed

In a tough economy it’s not just corporations looking for a bailout – more people decide to bail out of their marriage .

In the hopes of providing sound guidance in trying times, Brigham Young University professor of Family Life Alan Hawkins and divorce attorney Tamara Fackrell have teamed up to write “Should I Keep Trying to Work it Out? A Guidebook for Individuals and Couples at the Crossroads of Divorce.”

“We hope that the guidebook can help make people more confident about the decision that they’re going to make either way,” said Hawkins. “We hope that this is a process that can help people prepare better for any outcome, that they can feel more confident about it and better prepared.”

The free guidebook in many ways is a cross between an encyclopedia and a workbook. It addresses issues all the way from lawyers to physical health. The book is organized by questions that people may not think about until after the papers are signed. It combines candid, real life stories with what research tells us about divorce.

Carma Needham, a graduate student working with Hawkins, is now researching the users’ response to the guide. Initial comments from individuals at the crossroads of divorce indicate the resource is fair and helpful. Readers have specifically mentioned appreciation for the sections on how divorce affects children and available legal options.

“One participant said that when he got the book he thought it was going to try and convince him to stay together and work it out,” Needham said. “He was happy to see how even-handed it was. It let you consider all of your options; it just helps you to consider them well.”

The goal of the book is not to counsel people against divorce, but to inform and educate on the likely outcome of any decision. Hawkins and his colleagues hope that it can help people to make more informed decisions and be aware of possible consequences.

“This is an opportunity for people to sit down, breathe and organize their thoughts in a calm, rational way,” Needham said. “That way when the aftermath comes they can look back and say I expected this and was more prepared than I would have been.”

The project began after the 2007 Utah legislative session. Hawkins noticed that a bill had passed requiring divorcing Utah parents with dependent children to attend a divorce orientation class. After making inquiries about the curriculum that would be used in the class, Hawkins volunteered to put together a guidebook to supplement the curriculum.

“I’ve been more than a little surprised at the lack of resources to help people think clearly and make decisions at a very difficult time,” Hawkins said. “What we share with them is based on extensive research. I feel good about offering a resource to people in this situation that I think is very fair and we hope is sensitive and helpful.”

The guidebook is now online thanks to the help of Brian Higginbotham, family life specialist with the Cooperative Extension System at Utah State University. The web-based version includes video segments of couples discussing how they were able to work through their challenges.

According to Hawkins, even at the last stages of divorce there are about 10 percent of couples willing to consider reconciliation. Hawkins hopes that this guidebook can also be a tool to help many couples repair damaged relationships.

“We’re in a culture that thinks about a bad marriage like bad fruit,” Hawkins said. “Once it’s bruised and going bad you just have to throw it away; you can’t repair it. Our culture thinks about relationships in very black-and-white terms. There are things that we can share with people to give them a little different and more hopeful perspective. Many of the problems people face can be addressed, and divorce often creates as many problems as it tries to solve. For some, the best course of action for their children and themselves is to keep trying to work it out, repair the relationship and keep the family together. I hope this guidebook can help prevent some unnecessary divorces.”

Research update 3/29/2011

For her dissertation, Fackrell has begun interviewing individuals who are thinking about divorce but have not yet firmly decided which direction they will go. She wants to learn how these individuals make decisions about leaving or staying. Surprisingly little research has addressed this important issue. If individuals would like to participate in this research, they can contact Fackrell at myattorneymediator@gmail.com or Hawkins at crossroads@byu.edu .

Writer: Patrick Perkins

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