TIME Marriage

Don’t Blame Facebook For Your Divorce

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cpaquin—Getty Images

Understanding the flaws in a new study that says time spent on Facebook is related to the divorce rate

A new study suggests that there is a relationship between increased Facebook use and divorce. But don’t delete your Facebook account yet: the researchers themselves admit that they have found a correlation between the two, not causation.

The researchers, who published the study in the July 2014 edition of Computers in Human Behavior, first looked at the rise of Facebook use and the rate of divorce in individual states. They found that a 20% increase in the number of Facebook users in a given state is associated with a 4% increase in the divorce rate the following year. However, the researchers could not identify who exactly was creating new Facebook accounts: it could have been young teens allowed to log on to the site for the first time or older people finally catching on to the trend. The people increasing their Facebook use were not necessarily the same people who were getting divorced.

The researchers also looked at survey information from individuals across the country aged 18 to 39. They found a weak relationship between marriage quality and social media use: those who spent more time on Facebook, Twitter and other sites were more likely to be unhappy with their marriage and thinking about ending it. However, an easy explanation for this correlation absolves Facebook: rather than social media sites causing people to be unhappy with their marriages, people who are unhappy (whether with their spouse or their life in general) could be turning to Facebook and other social media as an outlet. Individuals use Facebook to talk to friends, connect with old acquaintances and browse news and information—all of which can be used as a distraction from the less pleasant realities of life.

As the researchers conclude: “The study does not establish a cause-and-effect relationship because that would require longitudinal and/or experimental data.”

Sure, the Internet has made it easier to find mistresses and simpler to track a spouse’s cheating. But in the end, the individual has agency. Being exposed to exes, old friends or strangers online perhaps makes cheating more tempting, but it doesn’t encourage cheating. Similarly, a person may be inclined to monitor their partner’s activity, but that person can also choose to trust his or her significant other. In short, if a cheater is going to cheat, he doesn’t need Facebook (0r even the Internet) to accomplish that goal.

TIME Family

Couples With Marital Stress More Likely to Have Daughters

Parents Baby Daughter
Mother and father are shown kissing their baby daughter. Chris Ryan—OJO Images RF/Getty Images

“Girls may well be surviving stressful pregnancies that boys can’t survive”

They’re always blaming the children. After years of research showing that couples with daughters are more likely to divorce, Duke researchers Tuesday offered up an interesting explanation as to why: female embryos are better at toughing it out.

Duke economist Amar Hamoudi co-authored the study, which analyzed longitudinal data from a random sample of Americans between 1979 and 2010. Their results showed that women who reported higher levels of relationship stress, linked to a increased prevalence of later divorce, were more likely to give birth to girls.

“Girls may well be surviving stressful pregnancies that boys can’t survive,” Hamoudi said. “Thus girls are more likely than boys to be born into marriages that were already strained.”

Research has widely documented men’s higher mortality rates from birth to age 100, and recent studies have shown that the “female survival advantage” may even begin in the womb. Hamoudi suggests that science needs to take a closer look at this critical life stage.

“It’s time for population studies to shine a light on the period of pregnancy,” Hamoudi said. “The clock does not start at birth.”

TIME

Like Gwyneth and Chris, My Husband and I Consciously Recoupled

Gwyneth Paltrow, left, and Chris Martin
Gwyneth Paltrow, left, and Chris Martin Colin Young-Wolff—Invision/AP

After I heard "I don't love you anymore," my marriage headed into a gray area—and it wasn't all bad

The concept of “conscious living” is a popular one—synonymous with “mindfulness,” we like to apply it to eating, building, working, whatever we are doing. Time even put it on the cover a few months ago. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin brought the revolution to more tabloid headlines when they announced their “conscious uncoupling.” More recent reports, however, note that the uncoupled pair has been publicly love-birding, so it’s natural to wonder if a “recoupling” is in the offing.

“Coupling” brings me back to the railroad yards of my youth, where my father, a train–parts salesman, would explain how the cars come apart and together using something called a coupler. With only a modicum of bashing and bravado, the trains would line up and be on their way. And with that in mind, “uncoupling” seems a much better word to use for the end of a relationship than the fraught, shameful “divorce.” I know, because in the last seven years, I have uncoupled, recoupled, and uncoupled for good from the person I coupled with in 1988. The Great Northern railroad runs through my small Montana town and I went to the train yard a lot in the last seven years.

Back in 2008, I was met with the words, “I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did.” And an encore in 2011: “It’s not that I don’t love you. It’s that I’m not in love with you anymore.” The first time, I believed that the relationship was salvageable. The second time, I knew the marriage had to end. My reaction both times: to choose not to suffer by focusing on what I could own and what I could control, and letting go of the rest. Sounds hard. It was. But I did it as consciously as possible and I am better for having lived that way, even though the marriage is over. My strategy was never about staying together.

I wrote my way through both crises, in an essay for the New York Times and in my memoir, This is Not the Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness. Consequently, I heard from people all over the globe and I can tell you: they want to know that there is some freedom in not knowing what’s around the corner.

Because—usually—it’s not black and white. There’s so much at stake—families, children’s stability, loss of property, future dreams, self-identity, community orientation. They want to know that there is hope. That in the grey area they will they learn something profound about themselves, and even find themselves back in the relationship—only with new perspective and heightened respect. They want to believe in that poster we had on our college dorm-room wall: “If you love something set it free. If it returns, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.”

When I was consciously uncoupling for the first time I was new at employing this practice of non-suffering. I had small kids, which meant that I couldn’t journey for great lengths of time to the Kripalu-Omega-Esalan institutes of the world, or to the top of Everest, or to an ashram. I had to practice mindfulness right there at my kitchen sink. And it worked.

Gwyneth and Chris and I are living proof that we can step outside the story that society spins during times of relationship re-invention—we don’t have to fight and throw plates to be powerful. In the first uncoupling, and even in our mediation sessions, there were times when I reached out and held my was-band’s hand (I can barely use the word “ex”) because we were used to navigating troubled times together. Uncoupling, and recoupling, and uncoupling, if you do that again, doesn’t need to be like the movies or TV dramas, or the war stories you hear from friends. You can find grace in the grey.

In those years of vacillation, I learned to live in the moment, responsible for my own happiness. Perhaps in so-doing, we found our way back to each other for a time. And why our mediator congratulated us in our last session, with the ink still drying on the divorce decree. “Good job, you guys. When you’re ready, I think you two would be excellent candidates for a divorce ceremony. They really help people deliberately and intentionally close this chapter of their lives.”

We’re not ready for that yet. There’s still a lot of grief. But for now we are able to co-parent and communicate with respect, and the kids are thriving. Did we all suffer less because of our conscious variations on coupling? I’d like to think so.

Laura Munson is the best-selling author of This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness, and founder of Haven Retreats.

MONEY Divorce

The 7 Biggest Money Mistakes That Divorcing Women Make

Divorcing couple arguing
Hybrid Images—Getty Images/Cultura RF

A financial planner flags the costly errors women commonly make when a marriage breaks up.

Divorce, in my experience, is about two things: children and money.

The courts in most states typically will prioritize children’s interests first and foremost. Courts will also protect children’s entitlements by enforcing child support.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a comparable authority that protects a divorcing spouse’s financial needs. The law simply mandates a fair and reasonable financial outcome.

And beware: Dividing marital property is almost always a one-shot deal, for better or worse. Simply thinking that your outcome is unfair is not enough to try to reopen your judgment. To successfully appeal a division of property, you have to clear a very high bar: You have to prove that the divorce court made a mistake when considering the facts of the divorce or applying the divorce laws in your state to the case. Alternatively, you have to prove fraud or duress.

Over the course of years working with divorced and divorcing spouses, I’ve found some common financial mistakes that women make that threaten their financial security.

I’ve listed the mistakes here so you can be forewarned. Let me add a word of caution, though. It’s not enough to know that these issues can be a problem. You may feel as though you can handle them on your own. But with many of them, it is crucial you seek expert financial advice.

  1. Trading off part of the financial settlement you’re entitled to in exchange for securing child custody or greater visitation time.
  2. Underestimating your financial needs and assuming you can reduce your budget without consideration of the proportion of fixed overhead expenses.
  3. Believing in the “lawyer knows best” myth and letting your attorney dictate what your goals are and what your best short- and long-term outcomes are. You must be knowledgeable and responsible for your own financial security.
  4. Deciding financial issues one at a time and neglecting the interaction of factors such as income taxes, capital gains taxes, investment risk, inflation, and transferability of assets. All parts move like pieces in a puzzle and affect each other; they fall into place when you understand the comprehensive picture.
  5. Failing to adequately “insure” (that is, make enforceable) financial provisions of a settlement. If your spouse becomes disabled or dies, you may lose your support. You must protect your rights to your financial entitlements via life insurance on the payor.
  6. Failing to address unsecured debts or develop strategies for paying them off before your divorce is final. Unlike divorce — which is governed by state law — credit card debts and commercial loans are governed by federal law. Creditors do not care if your ex-spouse fails to pay off your debt as ordered in your settlement agreement. It is still your debt.
  7. Not planning, before the divorce is finalized, how to handle post-divorce financial issues such transferring pension benefits, securing health insurance, and changing ownership of accounts.

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Vasileff received the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ 2013 Pioneering Award for her public advocacy and leadership in the field of divorce financial planning. Vasileff is president emeritus of the ADFP and is a member of NAPFA, FPA, and IACP. She is president and founder of Divorce and Money Matters, serving clients nationwide from Greenwich, Conn. Her website is www.divorcematters.com.

TIME Culture

Halle Berry Ordered to Pay Almost $200K Per Year in Child Support

2014 Huading Film Awards - Press Room
Actress Halle Berry poses in the press room at the 2014 Huading Film Awards at The Montalban on June 1, 2014 in Hollywood, California. Jason LaVeris—FilmMagic

Berry and ex-boyfriend Gabriel Aubrey settle dispute

A judge has ordered Halle Berry to pay her ex-boyfriend, Gabriel Aubry, $16,000 per month in child support, the Associated Press reports. The Oscar-winner will fork over $200,000 per year plus tuition money for the ex-couple’s six-year-old daughter Nahla. Berry must also make a retroactive payment of $115,000 and another $300,000 to Aubry’s attorneys to cover their fees.

Berry falls in line with a growing number of women who pay child support. A 2013 Pew report found that women are the sole or primary breadwinners in 40 percent of households with children under 18. Because the number of female breadwinners is at a peak and more men are asking for shared custody, cases of women paying child support are likely on the rise, too. A 2012 survey of divorce lawyers in the United States found that 56 percent of attorneys saw an increase in numbers paying child support since 2009.

Aubry, 38, and Berry, 47, dated from 2005 to 2010 but never married. In 2012, the couple became involved in a custody dispute over Nahla, when a judge blocked the X-Men: Days of Future Past star from moving their daughter to France to live with her and her now-husband Olivier Martinez. The fight culminated in a physical altercation between Aubry and Martinez in November of 2012, People reported. Aubry and Berry now share equal custody of the girl, according to court documents.

Martinez is Berry’s third husband. The two welcomed a son, Maceo, in October.

TIME relationships

People Are Getting Social Media Prenups

Facebook's Influence In Consumer Consumption Of News Growing
Facebook (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

But if you need one, your relationship is probably already doomed

Dating a jerk who cares more about his Facebook than your feelings? Don’t worry! You can get a social media prenup to protect your online reputation while you continue to sleep with the callous twit of your dreams.

Social media prenups are on the rise, according to ABC News, as more and more couples draw up contracts about what they can and can’t post online. Most of the prenups are monetary, which means someone may have to cough up as much as $50,000 if they post an unflattering picture of their spouse (and some include bans on revenge porn and other post-relationship social media.) “It’s a huge issue because we all know this stuff, once it’s out there, you can’t shake it,” attorney Ann-Margaret Carrozza told ABC. “It can be humiliating. It can be painful. … It’s really no joke, and I expect this clause to become much more important with any of the other contracts.”

But for every person who’s annoyed about having their embarrassing beach body posted online, there are other people who get upset that their significant others asked them not to post something. “This morning one of my clients was so hurt because her boyfriend said ‘don’t share on Facebook that you and I got together on my birthday,’” said Dr. Karen Ruskin, a psychotherapist and relationship expert. “Not being able to post something is hurtful because it seems like someone’s trying to keep you a secret, like a mistress in hiding.”

Dr. Ruskin says being told not to post something online can make people feel controlled, and make them feel like they’re being kept a secret and devalued by their partner. But if you have to draw up a contract over posting embarrassing pictures of each other, maybe there are some deeper issues going on. Like if someone doesn’t listen when you ask them not to post a picture of you in your bathing suit, maybe you should’t be dating them. Ditto if somebody is pretending you don’t exist online.

“If you’re fighting about social media, it means that there is something else going on,” Dr. Ruskin said. “If your relationship is in a healthy place, you’re likely not to argue about social media. Social media is just spotlighting the problem.”

ABC says that 80% of divorce attorneys say discussion of social networking is increasingly common in divorce proceedings for a range of reasons, which means we’ll probably be hearing more about prenups like this. But it’s not a safety measure– it’s a red flag.

Run, run for the hills!

 

 

 

MONEY Financial Planning

Unconscious Coupling: The Financial Hazards of Shacking Up Later in Life

Older unmarried adults unloading packing boxes
Older unmarried adults need to know the financial consequences of moving in together. Robert Daly—Getty Images/OJO Images

When older adults move in together without getting married, complications ensue. A planner explains the potential pitfalls.

I once had a client who, almost the moment her divorce was finalized, told me she had gotten engaged and was about to move in with her new boyfriend. “Are you really sure this is going to last?” I asked her (for reasons I will explain in a moment). “Are you really, really, really sure?” Yes, she said. She moved in.

Two months later, they broke up.

This wasn’t just an emotional setback for her; it was a financial one, too, and catastrophic at that. Under the terms of her divorce, the alimony she was receiving terminated upon her cohabitation — that is, living with — her boyfriend. The upshot: Fifteen years of alimony payments down the drain.

She had never held a job in her married life. Now she has to work in sales.

So is it dangerous for divorced adults to move in together later in life? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. What’s certain is that staying unmarried later in life, even once you’ve found a new partner, is more popular than it has been in the past. The number of men and women over 65 living together without benefit of marriage has doubled over the past decade.

What stops many from remarrying is the threat of financial loss and disapproval from adult children. Remarriage may mean giving up a former spouse’s pension, Social Security, and other benefits to which a person may be entitled. Remarriage may also increase tensions with a person’s children from a prior marriage.

So people just move in together without marrying — a process I like to call “unconscious coupling.” Yes, it has its advantages:

  • If you want to apply for Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s record, you have to be unmarried.
  • You can’t be held liable for your new partner’s debts, if you don’t co-sign any loans or open joint credit cards. (If you jointly own assets, however, it’s possible that creditors could get at them.)
  • Should you want to leave your estate to your children from a prior marriage (or other relatives) and not your new partner, it’s easier to do so if you’re not married. (State laws vary.)
  • Unmarried, you won’t get hit with the infamous “marriage penalty,” the higher taxes that often hit dual-earner couples.

On the other hand, living together and not getting married has its disadvantages, too. Among them:

  • As illustrated by my client’s story, if you receive alimony, the payments probably terminate with cohabitation (state laws and individual agreements vary). You must analyze whether you’ll be able to replace lost income.
  • Not all employers offer benefits to unmarried partners. If you are dropped from your ex-spouse’s health insurance policy as a result of your divorce, for example, you could be ineligible for coverage under your new partner’s insurance unless you marry.
  • Should your new loved one need medical or long-term care, you may not be able to tap into his or her assets to cover these expenses.
  • Adult children may choose to not to honor any oral or informal agreements their parent made to an unmarried partner — for example, the right to live in the house owned by the partner after his or her death.

Estate planning for unmarried partners is a must. Without it, neither partner will inherit from the other — and neither of them will have a say in the other’s end-of-life medical care. I have seen cases in which adult children have refused requests from their parent’s partner to spend money on their parent’s care; the children wanted to preserve the assets for themselves.

There are hurdles with cohabitation but they are not impossible to deal with successfully. People need to consider both of their financial situations and what will happen if the living arrangement fails or if one of them dies.

Older adults moving in together may or may not be planning for a wedding, but they are planning for their future.

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Vasileff received the Association of Divorce Financial Planners’ 2013 Pioneering Award for her public advocacy and leadership in the field of divorce financial planning. Vasileff is president emeritus of the ADFP and is a member of NAPFA, FPA, and IACP. She is president and founder of Divorce and Money Matters, serving clients nationwide from Greenwich, Conn. Her website is www.divorcematters.com.

TIME Family

Boys of Divorced Parents Twice as Likely to Be Obese

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Mike Kemp—Brand X/Getty Images

Girls' weight is affected too, but not as much.

Researchers in Norway have discovered a possible link between divorce and childhood obesity, especially among boys. The researchers looked at health data from school nurses on more than 1,000 third grade kids (about 8 years old) at 127 different schools in the Scandinavian country. About a fifth of the kids were overweight or obese as defined by the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF). Almost a 10th were abdominally or centrally obese, which means they had a waist circumference that is at least half their height. (A large girth has been connected to several adverse health outcomes, including heart disease and diabetes.) That’s worrying enough. But the boys and girls whose parents were divorced were 50% more likely to obese and almost 90% more likely to be abdominally obese than those whose parents were married. They were even more likely to be obese than kids whose parents had never married. Even when other factors were taken into account, including how educated the mother was—usually the highest predictor of childhood obesity—the findings held true. And for boys, the likelihood of unhealthy weight was even higher. They were 63% more likely to be generally overweight than boys with married parents. And they were 104% more likely to have too much weight on their waist. “We wanted to understand how ongoing changes in society and in children’s daily lives can be related to the development of overweight and obesity,” says Dr. Anna Biehl, an epidemiologist at Norwegian Institute of Public Health and one of the authors of the paper. “Since 1975, the number of divorces has increased and a greater proportion of children today are living for much of their childhood with divorced parents. Knowledge about this is important for preventive work.” It’s not completely clear that the parental divorce was the cause of the obesity, although other studies have found similar effects. There is ongoing discussion among sociologists as to whether divorce leads to poverty or if it’s more true that poverty leads to divorce. Poverty, at least in developed countries, is linked with childhood obesity. So poverty could be the cause of both the divorce and the obesity. Or, as the study notes, there could be other variables: “Health, socioeconomic resources, psychological characteristics, values and preferences affect the chance of marrying and remaining married,” it says, “and has previously been found to account for some of the differences between children of divorced and married parents.” One way to adjust for that in future studies would be to compare the kids’ measurements before and after the marriage dissolved, but this study was not able to do that. Biehl is very reluctant to speculate on why kids of divorce have weight issues. But other research has indicated that women usually take a bigger financial hit when divorced, they usually get custody of minor children and they usually do the bulk of the cooking in most households. All of those things will be harder to do as a single parent which could have health repercussions. There may simply be less household income to spend on food, less time spent on cooking, less mental bandwidth to spend on watching over kids’ health and exercise regime. But there could also be an emotional component. It’s rare that a divorce doesn’t lead to disruption in a child’s life, either through conflict or merely the selling or moving out of a family home, all of which can cause stress. “Such emotional stress may impact on eating behavior and physical activity level,” says the study. Previous studies have hinted that parents might become less strict about healthy lifestyles—allowing children more screen time or to eat when they weren’t hungry, for example—as a way to curry favor with the kids or out of guilt. As to why it hits boys harder? Again, it’s largely speculation, but they tend to have fewer mechanisms for expressing their feelings and often lose a male role model and are therefore more vulnerable when families dissolve.

TIME Family

Divorce: Shared Custody of Kids is on the Rise

Custody to moms only may soon be a thing of the past

Fewer mothers than ever are being given sole custody of their children as shared custody is on the rise.

A new study of Wisconsin Court Records published in Demography shows that from 1988 to 2008, the percentage of mothers who were awarded sole custody of their kids plummeted from 80% to 42%, but that was accompanied by a steep rise in joint custody arrangements. Over the same period of time, equal shared custody rose from 5% to 27% and unequal shared custody rose from 3% to 18%. Father-only custody stayed roughly the same the whole time, hovering around 10%.

The study doesn’t cover kids who are born into single-parent households, just households that have gone through a divorce, which is why it might seem a bit misleading– 45% of American babies are born to unmarried mothers, but those custody arrangements aren’t studied here.

TIME Marriage

This Is How Much The Most Expensive Divorce In History Costs

Rose Ball 2014 In Aid Of The Princess Grace Foundation In Monaco
Dmitry Rybolovlev attends the Rose Ball 2014 in aid of the Princess Grace Foundation at Sporting Monte-Carlo Pascal Le Segretain—Getty Images

Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev was ordered to pay his ex-wife $4.5 billion by a Swiss court

A Swiss court ordered Russian oligarch and Monaco soccer club owner Dmitry Rybolovlev to pay more than $4.5 billion to his ex-wife Monday.

And if what Rybolovlev’s lawyer’s saying is true, then the soon-to-be-appealed settlement amounts to the most expensive divorce in history.

Lawyers for Rybolovlev’s ex-wife Elena, on the other hand, released a statement that the ruling was a “complete victory.” On top of the settlement money, which amounted to half of Dmitry’s fortune, Elena will receive three different properties—one of which is worth $146 million—and custody of their 13-year-old daughter Anna.

The former couple, both of whom are 47, met in a Russian university and were married in 1987. Divorce proceedings began in 2008. Forbes once estimated Rybolovlev was the 78th richest man on earth thanks to his success in the fertilizer business. He’s now number 147.

Ryobolovlev’s settlement figure puts even other notoriously pricey divorces in the shade. Art dealer Alec Wildenstein paid his ex-wife a $2.5 billion settlement on top of a yearly $100 million sum for 13 years following his 1999 divorce. That same year, Rupert Murdoch reached a settlement with his wife of 31 years, Anna, for $1.7 billion.

[AP]

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