8 Major Life Stresses That Can Lead to Divorce

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Marriages are all different. Some marriages are strong and can handle multiple stressors and survive. Others are more fragile and may not survive one or more major stressors or traumatic events without ending in divorce. Often couples have one or major stresses that cannot be fixed with financial planning, counseling, bankruptcy, medical treatment or time and result in divorce. If you have decided to file for divorce in Massachusetts, these are some common issues you may be discussing with your divorce attorney:

  1. Infidelity or Adultery

Some couples are able to recover from infidelity. Often the damage to trust cannot be repaired. Massachusetts is a no-fault state. This means that when you file for divorce you may indicate it is due to an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. In other states, this is often called irreconcilable differences. This means the relationship has deteriorated to the point the couple can no longer live together as spouses.

While the act of adultery in itself is not a basis for receiving a larger share of the marital estate during divorce or custody of the children, it may be relevant to the division or award of marital assets and child custody and should be discussed with your divorce attorney. If the unfaithful spouse spent large sums of money on their mistress, lover or paramour, the faithful spouse can seek to be credited for this waste of the marital resources. If the lover or paramour is a criminal, prone to illicit drug use, or engages in behavior that is otherwise not appropriate for children, this will be considered in determining child custody.

  1. Job Loss or Unwillingness to Work 

A major loss of income is typically a large source of stress for a marriage. It is not uncommon for couples to argue when they were accustomed to a certain lifestyle and are now required to cut back on expenses. Often it can take years to reestablish the same salary. This can take a serious toll on a marriage.

In some instances, spouses lose their jobs and do not seek further employment either out of a desire to remain home with children or in some instances outright laziness. The Courts will consider if a spouse has voluntarily taken a lower paying job, left the workforce, or taken a part-time job against their spouse’s wishes and without regard to the families’ financial condition. This can serve as a basis for imputing or attributing greater income when the Court makes determinations about child support, alimony or spousal support, and the division of marital assets. This is not a consideration when the loss or reduction of income is not intentional.

  1. Illness or a Traumatic Incident

Sudden illness or a traumatic event may test a marriage. Often one party has difficulties recovering from the illness or incident, and it can have long-term effects on a relationship. In other instances, a spouse may disapprove of the response taken by their partner, causing disappointment, loss of trust or hurt feelings. Often families recover from these events, but the financial and emotional effects linger for years to come, and can result in divorce. If a partner is unable to physically care for a child due to an illness or injury or suffers mental health issues that impede their ability to supervise children, the Court will consider these issues when making a child custody determination.

  1. Special Needs Children and/or Caring for Elderly Parents 

Families are often faced with stresses resulting from caring for special needs children and declining elderly parents. Special needs children often require significantly more time and resources. Caring for elderly parents may result in an additional member of the household or time away from children and/or spouses. It is not uncommon for these issues to factor into a divorce. When making a child custody determination, Courts will consider a parent’s ability to care for a special needs child. The Court may also award additional child support to cover the expenses associated with a special needs child.

  1. Debt or Overspending

Divorcing couples may argue about debt or overspending. Often spouses disagree about household spending and overspend and incur debt. In other instances, debts may have accumulated due to a failed business, illness, a traumatic event or loss of employment making it difficult to pay off the resulting obligations. If one spouse incurred the debts without consulting with the other, this can often lead to strife. If the couple has become insolvent or no longer able to pay debts when they become due, filing a bankruptcy may be an option to alleviate these issues. If the cause of the debts is a spouse who is spendthrift or a person who spends money in an extravagant and irresponsible way, there may be no means to control their behavior. Courts have the ability to consider a spouse’s conduct when dividing marital assets and debts. This can include awarding more property or making one spouse solely responsible for a debt.

  1. A Failed Business

Starting a business is often difficult. Often the founder does not have income for a long time. If the business is not successful, the founder may lose the entire investment. If the spouse of the founder did not fully support the decision, this can often cause a rift in the marriage leading to divorce. When going through the divorce process, it is important to determine if you became personally liable for any portion of the debts associated with your former spouse’s business. Even if you guaranteed loans for your spouse’s business, the Court may order that your spouse be responsible for the debt.

  1. Becoming Empty-Nesters

Often couples do not divorce until their children have finally left the home. Many spouses stay in bad marriages for financial reasons and/or for the benefit of their children. Divorce is often expensive and can result in less money being available for children and/or retirement. Some parents choose to stay in a marriage to ensure stability for their children. When both spouses have worked throughout the marriage this can make a divorce an easier process when child support and child custody are no longer issues. If one spouse stayed home to take care of the children and has not rejoined the workforce, they may be eligible for long term alimony, making the divorce process more complicated.

  1. Abusive Behavior

Abusive behavior from a partner should never be tolerated. Often partners give their spouses an option to seek counseling in the hopes of saving the relationship. Sadly, many spouses stay in physically or emotionally abusive relationships for too long. Unfortunately, the law does not directly protect spouses from long-term emotional abuse. If the pattern of emotional abuse may be established through evidence, the Court may consider this during a child custody determination.

Spouses will have an easier time confronting physical abuse. Spouses or other members of a household may seek a protective order pursuant to Chapter 209A of the Massachusetts General Laws. You do not have to have a divorce case pending. The case will be heard in the Superior Court, Boston Municipal Court, or the Probate and Family Court. If you have been physically harmed by your partner/spouse or member of your household, or they have threatened you with imminent bodily harm, please contact the police or see the link below for more information:



Sometimes these issues resolve themselves over time. Otherwise, they may lead to a lingering toxic relationship. If your marriage cannot be repaired through treatment or counseling, you should consider freeing yourself of these stresses through divorce.

Couples divorce for many reasons. If you are having many of the issues listed above, are considering divorce, and wish to learn about your rights from a divorce and family law attorney, please call me at 617-431-8071 to schedule a consultation.