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Divorce & Suicide


Alarming Statistics and Who is at Risk

A recent article in Psychology Today provided that the rate of suicide for people who are divorced or separated is 2.4 times greater than those who are married.  More surprising is the huge difference in the suicide rate among divorced men compared to divorced women.  Divorced men were nine times more like to die by suicide than a divorced woman.  To put that another way, nine divorced men die by suicide for every one divorced woman. 

The statistics for the regular population show that 3.5 women die of suicide compared to every one male.  Dr. Glen Sullivan, the author of the article, wondered why there is this incredible imbalance? Citing Dr. Kposowa, a sociologist at the University of California – Riverside, Dr. Sullivan considered that we undervalue the strength of the paternal-child bonds and thus underestimate the traumatic effects of the typical custody arrangements that sever those bonds.  We fail to appreciate the catastrophic financial impact of divorce on men, the anger and the resentment engendered by losses of both property and status.

Dr. Sullivan states that there must be more afoot.  Could the risk factors for divorce in men be related to the risk factors of suicide in divorced men?  Dr. Sullivan provides two examples.  If a man shows poor decision making during the marriage (overspending, drinking, bad behavior, etc.), he will likely after his divorce continue this poor behavior which may lead to eventual self-inflicted death.  Similarly, if a man works day and night, which could cause the divorce, he will then also find himself without friends and a support system.

Research in this regard is obviously very necessary. As a divorce attorney, I reflected on this data and wondered why more men than women die from suicide when they divorce?

Are men wired to be more suicidal than women?  But again, the overall data is contrary to that finding.

Do men have certain risk factors that causes the divorce and the suicide like Dr. Sullivan wondered? My gut feeling is that a section of the male and female population has problem behaviors that could cause a divorce and could cause a death by suicide.  

Based on my divorce work with both men and women, I wonder if the increased male suicide rate is in part caused by our societal thinking about divorce.  Both mom and dad presume that dad will receive every other weekend parenting time.  Both mom and dad will assume that dad will have to pay child support.  Both parents function based on those assumptions for some time before visiting an attorney. Dad ends up being a weekend dad, working increased hours during the week to pay for child support and other additional obligations which he was ordered to pay in the divorce judgment.  

With the increased financial burdens, dads have limited time available to obtain emotional support.  Although dads may not be quick to admit it, men do not quickly share their heartaches with friends or professionals.  In short, the initial presumptions that dads end up being a weekend dad may lead to a slew of additional presumptions, burdens and potentially depression.

Different courts have different procedures, but Michigan Court Rules allow both moms and dads to obtain a temporary order while the divorce is pending. Such an order would provide dad with custody and parenting time based on a review of the best interest factors.  The judge may provide mom with custody; dad with custody; or provide the parents with shared custody.  When matters seem hopeless because the marriage is ending, there is the impending loss of a relationship with a partner and children, a visit with the Kraayeveld Law attorneys will provide some answers, realistic expectations and a game plan for the future.  As Nelson Mandela said: “May your choices reflect your hopes; not your fears.”  Please call us at 616-285-0808 and let us help set up or amend a custody and parenting time plan.