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A Poor Divorce: The Impact of Economic Class on Divorce Accessibility and Processes

Abstract

The implications and effects of a divorce are largely determined by family dynamics and how the separation is processed. The three methods of settling divorces discussed in this paper—independent settlement, mediation, and litigation—are designed to best suit and alleviate a particular case’s ills and circumstances. Consequently, the accessibility of these procedures heavily impacts the health and well-being of divorcees and their families. Through qualitative inquiry and expert interviews with a financial analyst, a divorce attorney, a family therapist, and a mediator, this paper examines how economic class impacts the divorce process and––more specifically––how income level changes or influences the way divorces are settled. The results of this research indicate that independent settlement is only preferable for low-income classes, mediation is available to both upper and lower income classes, and attorney-represented litigation is only an affordable option for high-income couples. Further, across all income levels, the spouse with greater financial stability is advantaged in divorce proceedings due to their ability to control and outspend the other spouse in legal fees.

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